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Researchers say Drug Could Extend Dogs' Lives

Researchers are looking for ways to extend the lives of dogs. (Virginia Carter)
Researchers are looking for ways to extend the lives of dogs. (Virginia Carter)
June 3, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Researchers are studying a drug that could extend the lives of dogs -- and, one day, maybe even that of humans.

They believe the drug rapamycin, typically used to treat organ-transplant patients, could be used at low doses to slow the aging process, attacking cancer and other age-related causes of death collectively instead of individually.

Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the University of Washington in Seattle who heads the Dog Aging Project research, said some scientists still doubt the drug's anti-aging properties.

"What we know from the basic biology of aging research is that rapamycin slows aging in every organism where it's been tested," he said, "and that goes from yeast to C. elegans -- which is a nematode worm -- to fruit flies, to mice."

Kaeberlein said rapamycin works on a molecular level, although exactly how it works still is unclear. The lab has completed an initial round of tests and found no major side effects for dogs. The study is hoping to prove that if rapamycin can extend the lives of humans' best friends, it could do the same for humans.

Kaeberlein said rapamycin works on a molecular level, although exactly how it works is still unclear. He and his colleague, Daniel Promislow, are recruiting middle-aged dogs for a long-term study of rapamycin for phase two of the Dog Aging Project. However, Kaeberlein said the study of the generic drug is facing funding challenges, partly because it doesn't have the backing of a large pharmaceutical company.

"It's my impression that if we had a company and we were trying to develop this drug for something we could sell, it would actually be easier to get it funded than working with a generic drug and trying to do this on the basic, academic-research side."

Rapamycin still has a long way to go before it can be called a wonder drug, he said. As well as studying its effectiveness, there are some side effects seen in mice, such as the development of cataracts, that Kaeberlein said his team will be looking out for in phase two.

More information is online at dogagingproject.com.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO