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UW Researchers Test Drug to Lengthen Dogs' Lives

The Dog Aging Project is recruiting dogs in middle age to participate in the study of a drug that could extend the pets' lives. (pixabay)
The Dog Aging Project is recruiting dogs in middle age to participate in the study of a drug that could extend the pets' lives. (pixabay)
June 3, 2016

SEATTLE - Researchers from the University of Washington are studying a drug that could extend the lives of dogs and one day, maybe even humans.

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, professor of pathology at UW who is heading the research, says 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 says. "And that goes from yeast to C. elegans, which is a nematode worm, to fruit flies to mice."

Kaeberlein says rapamycin works on a molecular level, although exactly how it works at that level is still 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 can do the same for humans.

Kaeberlein 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 says 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," says Kaeberlein.

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

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA