There’s an old saying that the only bad thing about dogs is that they don’t live long enough. But dogs (and humans) may one day be able to live longer — and your very own dog could help make that happen.
The largest-ever study in canine aging was launched this week by the Dog Aging Project, an effort “to understand how genes, lifestyle, and environment influence aging,” according to its website, for the purpose of helping pets as well as people enjoy longer lives. The project is a joint effort of the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
The participants in this groundbreaking study will be 10,000 dogs. They won’t be laboratory dogs, fortunately, but pets who don’t have to leave their homes.
UPDATE: During the first week after the launch, over 65,000 people nominated their dogs, according to a Nov. 21, 2019 newsletter from the Dog Aging Project. The 10,000 dogs wanted was “a goal, not a limit!” the newsletter reports. “In fact, the number of dogs we can enroll in the Dog Aging Project Pack is actually UNLIMITED, and we wholeheartedly welcome continued nominations!”
You can nominate your dog to participate whether they’re old or young, big or small, a purebred or a mixed-breed. It’s you who’ll actually be doing all the work as a citizen scientist. Over a five-year period, you’ll need to complete surveys about your dog’s health and life experiences. You may be asked to do certain activities with your dog and report on their performance. You’ll be provided with a genetic testing kit to sample your dog’s saliva.
Of those 10,000 participants, 500 or so middle-aged, medium- to large-sized dogs will be selected for a clinical drug trial, Geekwire reports. The drug, rapamycin, may have anti-aging benefits for pets and people.
Thanks to advances in veterinary care, dogs are living longer than ever nowadays — and getting more geriatric diseases. The study’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Kate Creevy of Texas A&M University, told TODAY there are currently no standards for frailty or prognosis of sick older dogs. The results from the study will change that and possibly lead to medical breakthroughs.
Along with helping to increase life expectancy, the researchers want this project to help increase healthspan, the period of life spent free from disease.
The $23 million study is getting $15 million in funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Dogs and people live together and get the same diseases, NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie Bernard told TODAY.
I nominated Ella, my almost 10-year-old Pit Bull mix who still acts like a puppy, to become part of the “Dog Aging Project pack” (but I won’t be letting her participate in any drug trials). If you’d like to nominate your dog, complete a brief survey on the Dog Aging Project website.