A drug discovered on Easter Island may help dogs live up to three years longer
Every dog owner is going to want this.
The tragedy of having pets is knowing that one day you’ll have to say goodbye to your loved ones. The average dog lives between 10 and 13 years, depending on its breed, but researchers believe that with the help of a drug called rapamycin, their lives can be extended by around three years.
Rapamycin was discovered nearly 50 years ago from soil that was found on Easter Island, an island in the South Pacific famous for its mysterious Moai statues. The drug was approved by the FDA for human use because it suppresses the immune system to prevent it from attacking donated organs.
"Rapamycin seems to have the ability to 'reset' immune function by reducing the increase in chronic inflammation that goes along with aging," Dr. Matt Kaeberlein of the Dog Aging Project says according to Yahoo. "This also seems to have benefits beyond the immune system in all sorts of tissues and organs."
Early tests on dogs, rats and mice show the drug is very effective at reducing the aging process. It was found to reduce age-related declines in mice, most notably in the heart, ovaries, brain and oral cavity. It was also found to boost the immune system's response to cancers and COVID-19.
The study found that rapamycin increased the mice's average life spans by up to 25%. If the same results are found in dogs, then a canine with a 12-year life span could presumably live to 15.
“You can take an old heart or an old immune system, treat a mouse with rapamycin for eight weeks, and see that function improve. I know it sounds a little bit like science fiction, but when you actually look at the data, it's quite remarkable," Kaeberlein says, according to KRTV.
The drug is found to have serious side effects in humans including cancer, diabetes and infections. However, Kaeberlein believes that they are partially the result of the drug being administered to people who already have health problems. Further, the drug will be administered in much smaller doses to dogs, compared to humans who have had organ transplants.
The University of Washington's Dog Aging Project is taking this research a step further by doing a nationwide study on almost 600 dogs.
The Dog Aging Project is recruiting dogs to participate in the largest #canine health study ever conducted. This is an opportunity to be part of a research project that can dramatically extend what we know about #health and #aging in our dogs.https://vimeo.com/dogagingproject/join\u00a0\u2026— Dog Aging Project (@Dog Aging Project) 1611427625
Kaeberlein believes that a dog is just as likely as a mouse to benefit from the effects of rapamycin, although the reaction will differ by breed. He believes that when it becomes widely used by veterinarians it’ll be administered to larger dogs at around 6 or 7 years and smaller dogs at 9 or 10.
The drug is already approved for use in humans by the FDA, so further studies will help dog owners and veterinarians decide whether it’s a safe treatment. "If our trial shows compelling evidence for beneficial effects and little in the way of side effects, I suspect many veterinarians will become more comfortable prescribing it for owners who request it," Kaeberlein says.
There is never a right time to say goodbye to our beloved pets. But if these studies turn out as researchers predict, we may be able to have a few more years of memories with our dogs before they cross the Rainbow Bridge.
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