Scientists Are Studying Drug That May Extend Your Pet's Life

Recently, scientists have started trialing a drug called rapamycin to test if it can be used to increase the lifespan of pets by up to four years.

Many can agree that the death of a family dog is a heartbreaking and tough time for both children and adults. Evolutionary geneticists at the University of Washington have been studying the aging process of animals and they believe that common drugs could help increase longevity. Since some dogs have been able to survive until they are 29, scientists believe they are capable of living longer than they do on average.

Rapamycin is an anti-rejection medicine used in patients who have undergone kidney transplants and which has been shown to extend the life of mice by more than 25 percent. In addition, it has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps the body get rid of waste.

Trials have now begun on 32 middle-aged golden retrievers, Labradors and German shepherd dogs to see if the adding low doses of rapamycin to their food could improve health and slow down aging.

If the dog trials work, it may mean that the drug can also work on humans. Dr. Daniel Promislow, a geneticist on the Dog Aging Project, at the University of Washington, said, "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. 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.”

Scientists are still trying to understand why some animals live longer than others. Dr. Matt Kaeberlein, director of the healthy aging and longevity research institute at the University of Washington, said, “For millions of people, pets are part of our family. Unfortunately, companion animals such as dogs and cats age rapidly and have life expectancies that are far too short.”

He continued, “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.”

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