by: Michelle Linn Updated:
- Researchers think there could be a way to slow aging in dogs
- Medicine used in mice could be the key
- Researchers need donations and dogs to test the treatment
Every dog person loves skimming pics of their pups -- their furry kids.
Especially Rose Bigham.
“I got him as a puppy from a shelter,” said Bigham.
She can always tell you exactly when Rascal became family.
“I needed something to keep me going,” said Bigham.
This love sprang from a broken heart.
Ellen was her big sister, they grew up, but not old together. Cancer killed her.
“My mom was a single mom, so my sister became my second mom … and she was the one person my life who was ... she was my rock,” she said.
Without her rock, Bigham just wanted to shut down and crawl into a hole.
But Rascal became her guide dog, leading her back out to life.
“Having him in my life meant I had to take him out for walks, I had to go outside, I had to go and meet other dog people,” she said.
Because of that bond, she's especially grateful to have met Matt Kaeberlein.
He owns two dogs, but it’s his relationship with mice that’s important.
Kaeberlein and Daniel Promislow are doing research at UW with a drug called rapamycin, often used to help humans prevent transplant rejection.
In mice it's had quite an affect.
“In human terms, this mouse would be about 140 years,” Kaeberlein said.
Signs indicate it could be successful with other animals, pets. And so the Dog Aging Project was born.
“For me, personally, my fundamental goal is to slow aging in dogs,” he said.
They opened up research with rapamycin on a couple dozen dogs, including Rascal.
Bigham said video shows the change she saw in her 10-year-old pup.
“And that's my dog in his prime again. Just suddenly jumping fences -- alert -- energetic,” Bigham said.
Kaeberlein and Promislow said it was no fluke.
“Over 10 weeks, you could see an improvement in all three of these measures of cardiac function,” Kaeberlein said.
The positive swing in heart function they found in mice was reflected in results for dogs as well.
“We've been able to increase lifespan by 30, 40, and 50 percent by targeting the pathways that affect aging. Fundamentally, there's no reason why that can't be done in dogs,” Kaeberlein said.
Now they are ready to go big with the Dog Aging Project
“The more fundraising we do -- the more science we can do -- the more dogs we can study,” said Promislow.
They want to enroll thousands of dogs across the country in a new study to determine if the initial results bear out and if rapamycin should be available for owners like Bigham.
Now, there's push for funding.
“I think we are racing against the clock for everybody who's got a dog right now,” said Kaeberlein.
“That thrills me because being a big dog -- I have always been concerned about how long do I get to keep this guy with me?” Bigham said.
“Like he wants to be with me always and I’m okay with that because I want to be with him, always. He’s my buddy.”
Here’s a link to the study: http://dogagingproject.com/
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