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10,000 Dogs Needed for a Study on Canine and Human Aging

Animals

The Dog Aging Project at the University of Washington is looking to recruit 10,000 dogs to study for the next 10 years to see if they can improve the life expectancy of man's best friend and their quality of life, as CNN reported.


The project hopes that the study will also reveal something about human health, especially if they are able to identify genetic markers for particular diseases like cancer.

The researchers will collect a trove of data and test out a new drug. The data will include vet records, DNA samples, gut microbes and information on food and walks. Five hundred study participants will test out a pill that may slow the aging process, according to the AP.

"What we learn will potentially be good for dogs and has great potential to translate to human health," said project co-director Daniel Promislow of the University of Washington School of Medicine, as the AP reported.

The potential benefits to human health is what convinced National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health to give the researchers a $15 million grant to conduct the study, as Geek Wire reported.

The researchers, which include teams from the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, issued a joint statement to CNN that said, "Dogs truly are science's best friend. Though they age more rapidly than humans, they get the same diseases of aging, have a rich genetic makeup, and share our environment."

"By studying aging in dogs," they said, "we can more quickly expand our knowledge of aging not just in dogs but also in humans." They added that the scientists are hopeful that their discoveries could lead to better "prediction, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and prevention of disease," as CNN reported.

Dogs make excellent study subjects because they are intertwined with humans.

"Unlike laboratory animals, they also share our environment," said Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the UW School of Medicine to GeekWire. "So we absolutely believe that, in that respect, pet dogs are going to be superior to laboratory models for understanding the aging process in humans, because we're able to capture that environmental diversity."

To participate, dog owners need to complete a form on the Dog Aging Project website. Owners will have to share health and lifestyle information about their dogs. They will also be asked to share their dogs' veterinary records. Dogs will continue to live at home with their owners. All ages, sizes, purebreds and mutts are invited to participate in the study, as the AP reported.

To contribute to the study, owners will complete periodic online surveys and take their dogs to the vet annually, with the possibility of extra visits for certain tests. A bioethicist and a panel of animal welfare advisers will monitor their welfare, as the AP reported.

"All owners who complete the nomination process will become Dog Aging Project citizen scientists, and their members will become members of the Dog Aging Project 'pack,'" said Promislow in a news release, as GeekWire reported.

Since large dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than small dogs, they will be prime candidates for the pill designed to slow the aging process. The dogs chosen to experiment with rapamycin, a drug that has extended the lifespan of mice, must weigh at least 40 pounds. Kaeberlein said a small study found no dangerous side effects in dogs taking the pill, according to the AP.

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