NATIONWIDE — Each dog owner wants to help their best friend live longer. Now tens of thousands of owners across the country have been given a chance to actually help make that dream a …
NATIONWIDE — Each dog owner wants to help their best friend live longer. Now tens of thousands of owners across the country have been given a chance to actually help make that dream a reality.
Since the launch of the Dog Aging Project (DAP) in 2019, more than 40,000 dogs have been enrolled in what is now the largest canine health study in the world. The project is being conducted by the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS), the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine, and a dozen other partner institutions. It is supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health.
“We all want to help our companion dogs live long and well,” said Dr. Kate Creevy, DAP chief veterinary officer and VMBS professor of veterinary internal medicine. “To accomplish this, a better understanding of the aging process in dogs is needed. The Dog Aging Project brings together a community of dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers and volunteers to advance this understanding.”
Ultimately, the varied, rich and complex data collected during the project will allow the team to characterize aging in companion dogs, resulting in metrics that do not currently exist. To generate that data, owners will use tests developed by the DAP scientists to measure changes in physical function as their dogs age.
There are similar tests for aging humans, like moving from seated to standing positions, gripping devices, or exploring age-specific normal ranges on blood chemistry values. For dogs, however—aside from owner observations—there are few standardized assessments.
One of the reasons the researchers feel this study will contribute to fields beyond canine medicine is that humans are affected by many of the same issues as dogs.
“The Dog Aging Project came in as an innovative approach to understand the process of aging,” said Dr. Francesca Macchiarini, former chief of the biological resources branch in NIA’s Division of Aging Biology. “This is because of the remarkable similarities between humans and their canine companions. They share the same environment, have similar lifestyles and, when it comes to aging, both species develop the same types of diseases.”
Working with dogs will help broaden the knowledge of aging in people too. “We’re going to learn more in a relatively shorter period of time than we would [studying] the human population… about how biology, lifestyle, and environment can affect healthy aging in dogs, and then have that be applicable to humans,” Macchiarini said.
Perhaps one of the project’s most exciting components is its Test of Rapamycin in Aging Dogs (TRIAD) study, a clinical trial that involves select veterinary sites across the U.S. In hundreds of middle-aged, large breed dogs, TRIAD will evaluate the effectiveness of rapamycin. At lower doses, the drug has been shown to increase lifespan, improve heart and cognitive function, and reduce age-related disease in laboratory species.
Dr. Matt Kaeberlein, a UW professor and the co-director of the Dog Aging Project, said TRIAD will provide the first clinical evaluation of an intervention that could increase lifespan and healthspan (the time of life when one is in good health) from this approach.
“Targeting biological aging is 21st-century medicine, with the potential to greatly enhance healthy longevity for both people and our pets,” he said.
Because the project is an open-data study, scientists around the world and from many different fields will have access to the massive amount of data generated, as well as the opportunity to contribute to the study in a variety of ways, based on their interests. For example, one key contributor is noted canine and archaic human genome science researcher Joshua Akey, who is at Princeton University.
“We are generating one of the most comprehensive catalogs of canine genomic variation, which will not only provide insights into the genetic determinants of aging but can also be leveraged to learn more about the evolutionary history of domesticated dogs and how humans shaped canine genetic variation through artificial selection,” he said.
“Healthy aging is the result of both genetics and the environment. It’s really important for us to study dogs who live in all kinds of environments, from farm dogs to city dogs,” said Dr. Daniel Promislow, DAP principal investigator and co-director, and professor of pathology and biology at UW. “Right now, we are specifically recruiting dogs from areas where we don’t have as many participants as we’d like to.”
For more information, or to learn how people can enroll their dog to participate in the ongoing project, visit dogagingproject.org.
Story contributed by the Dog Aging Project.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here