Do you love dogs? Well if you do, then I’m sure you’d love to play and cuddle with them for years and years. But then again, the truth is that, like most living things, dogs grow old too, and then they get so sick, and die. However, what’s so promising is that a new global study looks into the aging process in dogs, and looks to find ways to make them age gracefully, and in a much healthier manner. The researchers hope that the study will not just benefit dogs, but humans and other animals too. Let’s take a closer look at how this innovative dog research is conducted, and what the potential benefits are.
The Dog Aging Project is the Biggest Ever Canine Health Study Conducted
I don’t think anyone has ever studied, or investigated, such a large number of dogs over such a long period of time, until now. The Dog Aging Project assembles a national (and even international) team of more than 80 data scientists, veterinarians, and researchers to look for keys in the longevity of dogs.
This breakthrough dog research project aims to conduct a genetic analysis of dogs, ad hopes to gain more insights into normal aging, along with the entire spectrum of ailments that plague older dogs, from arthritis to cognitive decline, hearing loss and more.
For example, Golden Retrievers are prone to cancers, while German Shepherd often develop hip dysplasia, and Doberman Pinschers have a high prevalence of heart disease. Thus, it’s long been clear that big dogs have shorter lifespans than small dogs, and that different breeds are predisposed to different ailments or diseases.
While the dog research aims to solve genetic puzzle that hounds aging in dogs, its primary objective is to prolong their “health span”, which is that golden period of well-being when dogs can leap, run, dive and fetch and snuggle free from sickness, pain and disability. Each and every member of the research team wants to help each and every dog live the longest, fullest and healthiest lifespan that it can.
Most of the Dogs Enrolled in the Project Don’t Need to Leave Their Home
One of the best things about this innovative dog research is that most of the dogs involved don’t have to leave their homes, because their owners are just going to fill out an annual, 116-page questionnaire which covers everything from temperament to favorite toys, bowel habits, pesticide exposure, health status, sleeping arrangements, diet and mobility.
Environmental data like air and water quality will also be collated and correlated to each dog’s geographic location, and each and every participant can upload their dog’s veterinary records, of which more than 15,000 have already submitted.
And since all dog owners are integral to the Dog Aging Project, they’re going to be regularly kept in the loop with regular blog posts and a dedicated social media platform that’s called “Dog Park”.
This truly innovative and record-breaking dog research is actually the kind of science which cuts across politics, demographics and geography because so many people across the planet are just crazy about dogs.
The Key Outcomes of the Dog Aging Project
Now, let’s look at the key outcomes that this truly groundbreaking dog research wants to achieve or attain. The project’s targeted study populations consist of dogs of all breeds, ages, sizes and sexes.
Participation in the project is open to all geographic regions in the US, including urban, suburban and rural areas. The project’s scientists will collect a wide array of information, environmental data, veterinary medical records and genome-wide sequencing, as well as urine blood hair and feces.
Now, what key outcomes does this innovative dog research hope to attain? Okay, first the data will provide scientists and veterinarians with the tools to assess how well a specific dog is aging, and set the stage for studies on factors which influence normal canine aging. The Dog Aging Project’s researchers have already started collecting and analyzing the date which lays the groundwork for canine-specific aging processes.
Second, the project hopes to gain whole-genome sequencing data which will help identify genetic variants, environmental and lifestyle factors, along with the interactions which are associated with diverse measures of aging. The project is actually on-track to complete the sequencing of the genomes of 10,000 dogs by the end of 2022.
Third, the project hopes to create a systems biology model of aging in dogs through the annual measurement of the animal’s physiological status, from the whole organism via physical measurements to the molecular level through the collection and analysis of biological specimens.
These data will hopefully generate predictive and prognostic biomarkers of aging in dogs, and will also point to the causal factors which explain the mechanism by which specific genetic or environmental factors that influence aging. These data should also be very useful for clinical studies to develop antiaging therapies in both dogs and humans.
The Dog Aging Project also includes a clinical trial in dogs, by using a one-year course of weekly low-dose rapamycin, which has been noted to extend lifespan and improve health in mice.
The intent of this clinical trial is to test the hypothesis that rapamycin can increase lifespan, improve heart and cognitive function, as well as reduce age-related disease in middle-aged and large-breed dogs. This represents the first clinical trial of a drug with health-span and lifespan metrics as endpoints I any species outside of a laboratory setting.
Apart from making important, and truly groundbreaking contributions to the field of veterinary medicine, the ambitious objectives set by this dog research project holds the potential of transforming the field of research into the aging process.
And, just like other wide-reaching and longitudinal studies, the success of the Dog Aging Project depends on strong and enduring relationships with many stakeholders, including of course the participating dog owners, veterinarians and researchers.
And, through these efforts, the project’s researchers also aim to establish the foundation for a truly innovative community science approach to aging research in dogs, and eventually humans.