Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs.
They've been Man's best friends for more than 10,000 years. But one of the hardships of this enduring relationship is a dog's short lifespan - with larger breeds living less than a decade. But now a pair of University of Washington researchers want to see if they can give pet pooches a few more years of life. Matt Kaeberlein and Daniel Promislow are preparing a clinical trial to test whether rapamycin, a drug commonly used in human organ transplants, can extend a dog's life. It's already worked in trials using mice. The mouse on the left was treated with rapamycin while the one on the right was not. Even though both mice are the same age, Kaeberlein says the treated mouse is physically younger and will live 20-30 percent longer. According to Kaeberlein, the drug works by targeting a protein that regulates the rate at which cells in the body reproduce, while increasing its ability to manage and recycle waste. This combination slows down the ageing process. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MATTHEW KAEBERLEIN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PATHOLOGY, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "It's not just lifespan that is extended but many age related declines in function are also improved by Rapamycin so cardiac function is improved, cancer seems to be delayed, immune function at least to some extent is improved, cognitive function is improved. So it's not only that the mice are living longer, they are healthier longer into later age." Daniel Promislow says that while extending a dog's life is reason enough to test the drug on canines, there's also a strong scientific justification. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DANIEL PROMISLOW, PROFESSOR OF PATHOLOGY AND BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, SAYING: "One of the most amazing things about dogs is that they are more variable than any other species on the planet. All you have to do is put a Great Dane and a Chihuahua side by side and even a little kid can tell you 'yes' this is an incredibly variable species. Not only to get sick from and how long they live." And that variability makes dogs the perfect test subject, giving researchers an ideal testing ground to see how effective rapamycin is across a broad spectrum of genetic diversity. Looking forward, if rapamycin proves effective in dogs, it may work in humans too. Kaeberlein says the drug could prove a game changer in the area of preventative medicine. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MATTHEW KAEBERLEIN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PATHOLOGY, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "This is a much more efficient approach to promoting health than waiting until people are sick with a disease and treating a disease at that point." And If the dog trial proves successful, Kaeberlein says humans will benefit. He says if a dog is happy and healthy.....his owner is too.