Sunday, December 15, 2019
Dogs—Could Yours Offer Clues to Healthy Lifespan?
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Could this little gal tell us how to live longer and age better?
 
Sunday, November 17, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Could your pooch be the key to the fountain of youth? Or, at least, a longer life?

Ponce de Leon may have been looking in all the wrong places when he journeyed through Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth. It might have been right under his nose in his trusty dog.

Scientists are looking for 10,000 dogs to take part in a study on aging to identify factors critical to improving healthy lifespan. And they hope what they learn from the canines will offer clues about human longevity because dogs and humans share the same environment and get the same diseases, including pesky geriatric diseases.

The $23 million five-year study is being funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Dogs make particularly good research subjects because their shorter lifespans allow quicker results. We’ve all heard that one dog year equates to about seven human years. Of course, that varies according to breed, as small toy poodles generally live about twice as long as bigger dogs like Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Scientists will give a pill that could slow the aging process to 500 dogs enrolled in the survey. The dogs will live at home, following their usual routine.

Their owners, who will be considered citizen scientists, will just need to complete occasional online surveys and take their dogs to the vet at least once a year.

Scientists say the study could help in a number of ways. For instance, any genetic marker for cancerss that they find in dogs could translate to humans.

They are also particularly interested in trying the drug rapamycin on dogs. Used for cancer chemotherapy and organ transplant anti-rejection, small doses in mice seem to change the way mice age. Mice treated with rapamycin seem to live longer and age more healthfully.

Scientists want to see if dogs might benefit, as well.

Want to nominate your dog for the project? Go to www.dogagingproject.org.

Don’t live in the United States? A sister project called Darwin’s Ark is studying dogs, ticks and even cats.

 

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