Have you ever wondered how each year in a dog’s life compares to the life of a human being? Well, a new, and truly groundbreaking study into how long dogs live is going to bust the common myth that each human year is equivalent to 7 years for dogs. Read on to learn more about the famous dog aging project.
What the Dog Aging Project is All About
Scientists from the US, and perhaps even from all over the world, are now studying the genomes of 10,000 dogs in a long-term study that’s called the dog aging project. The project’s researchers hope that they will eventually learn why “super centenarian” dogs that live up to 20 years can survive, and thrive so long. The researchers are going to use the findings to help improve not just canine longevity, but human longevity as well.
One of the project’s members, a professor at a prestigious university says that the dog aging project is a very large and truly ambitious inter-disciplinary project which will have the potential to be a very helpful and powerful resource for the global scientific community.
The professor says that he finds the dog aging project to be a truly exciting venture, because he strongly thinks that it will improve both the health and longevity of dogs and humans.
The professor also adds that this is actually the first study of its kind in dogs, and he thinks that it is very clever and innovative way of trying to find the genetic differences which contribute to exceptional longevity.
The researchers also point out that they anticipate their findings to be translated to human aging too, for several reasons. The first reason is that dog experience nearly every functional decline or regression in the same way as humans do.
Second, they also hope that the findings will further analyze the extent of veterinary care and how it parallels to human healthcare in many ways. And as our dogs share our lived environments, the study hopes to be a determinant of aging, one that cannot be replicated in any lab setting.
And, given that dogs share the human environment, and they have a sophisticated health care system (but they have much shorter lives than people), the dog aging project offers a truly amazing opportunity to identify the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that are associated with a healthy lifestyle.
The Project is Just One of Many Studies Seeking to Understand Aging in Dogs
The dog aging project is actually just a few of several projects that are seeking to understand and analyze as well as improve dog aging.
Like, a Biotech company named Loyal has plans to offer something called “life extension” to dogs. A third project called Vaika is also looking for innovative ways to lengthen a dog lifespan through a study involving retired sled dogs.
However, dogs are just the start. Since these cute and faithful animals are a wonderful model for humans, anti-aging or life-extending medications and drugs which work for dogs could eventually be of immense benefit to humans as well.
In the meantime, attempts to prolong the lifespan of dogs can also help humans get onboard with the idea of life extension in people. These revolutionary studies will certainly go a long way towards convincing people that aging is modifiable, and possible in humans too.
Let’s take a look at one unique project which aims to not just study dog aging, but attempts to slow or even reverse it, and it’s called Vaika. The project’s founders, are going to study a group of dogs who have retired from sled racing, and for the last 4 years the team has collected dogs between 8 and 11 years old from kennels in northern US states and Canada. The dogs are carefully monitored until the end of their lives.
The research team’s focus is on DNA damage in the former sled dogs. DNA damage normally accumulates in an animal with age, and this damage could provide a signal to the immune system to destroy affected cells, which results in damage to the tissues.
Some of this DNA damage is caused by what the research team calls the retrobiome-fragments of ancient viruses which have been incorporated into our DNA over millions of years in evolution.
The study team also adds that an animal’s DNA which contains these fragments are often kept silent or dormant by epigenetic markers, although the system seems to break down with age. The team believes that these ancient, mysterious virus fragments are a major cause of age-related decline in people and other animals, which also includes dogs.
Vaika is trialing an experimental anti-aging drug which they believe will slow down or eventually stifle the activity of the retrobiome in the 103 dogs that they have collected and analyzed so far.
If the experimental drug can prevent DNA damage, it should allow the former sled dogs to live longer and healthier lives. As part of the trial, half of the former sled dogs will get the experimental medication while the other half will be given only a placebo.
The research team will also be looking for signs of aging in all of the former sled dogs, and in fact Vaika already has some preliminary results, although they do not want to make it public yet.
The Vaika study is actually a not-for-profit endeavor, and the project’s proponents even describe it as simply a hobby of sorts. However, the project proponents plan to make a business out of life extension
Biotech firm Loyal’s dog aging project also aims to explicitly develop drugs that are intended to increase a dog’s lifespan and health span. Loyal is also looking for biological clues which might hint at which animals are more prone to aging quicker, and which animals are likely to enjoy longer and healthier lives.
In fact, Loyal will soon launch clinical trials of two drugs, although they won’t give much information about the two, but they say that the first is an implant that’s aimed at larger dogs, while the second (a pill) will be tried in older dogs of different breeds.