Dogs are a treasured companion for millions of people around the globe, but they live very brief lives. Now a trial involving rapamycin is attempting to improve their health and extend their lifespan too.
A potential 'anti-aging' drug
Rapamycin has shown considerable preventative and restorative properties, despite coming with a range of side effects. It can extend mouse lifespan by up to 25% and there are a number of studies that suggest it could have beneficial effects in humans, although it needs further testing. Rapamycin is an immunosuppressant and is used following organ transplants, but researchers have found it acts on a particular pathway associated with longevity called mTOR - increasing cellular waste disposal and reducing inflammation.
Considering rapamycin is already established as a largely safe drug in correct dosages, it seems logical that it could prove beneficial in man's best friend as well as mice. Dogs are in some ways easier and cheaper to conduct trials with, and considering they have relatively few years on this earth many people are eager to extend the lives of their furry loved ones.
“If we can understand how to improve the quality and length of life, it’s good for our pets and good for us. It’s win-win”
Could it work on dogs?
While results on mice often fail to show efficacy in humans, dogs are closer in evolutionary terms, and mammals have many similar mechanisms. Establishing good results on dogs also bodes better for people too, and while drugs like rapamycin or metformin only show mild life-extending properties, until we have a breakthrough even small steps are welcome.
A trial begins
Trials using low dosage rapamycin have now started on 32 middle-aged pups, including Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German shepherds. The researchers hope to see some life extension, as well as a range of positive effects including mental performance and immune improvement.
“If rapamycin has a similar effect in dogs – and it’s important to keep in mind we don’t know this yet – then a typical large dog could live two to three years longer, and a smaller dog might live four years longer.
“More important than the extra years, however, is the improvement in overall health during aging that we expect rapamycin to provide”
Humans are living longer than ever before, and as we aim to boost longevity and healthy years ever more, many would also hope to translate health improvements to their pets too.
“Research in the biology of aging has made tremendous strides over the past several years. Interventions have been discovered that are capable of slowing aging and extending lifespan in small mammals such as mice and rats. These same interventions could provide our pets with several years of additional healthy, youthful life. Imagine what you could do with an additional two to five years with your beloved pet in the prime of his or her life. This is within our reach today.”
Read more at The Telegraph