Canine years: New research will track canine aging – Consumer Health News

MONDAY, Feb. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Joshua Akey admits he didn’t care much about dogs growing up.

“My wife, who grew up with dogs, convinced me we should have a dog in our freshman year of grad school. I reluctantly agreed and have been a dog lover ever since,” Akey said. , a professor at Princeton University. Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.

Akey’s turnaround as a dog lover is impressive because he’s now part of a national research effort called the Dog Aging Project, which aims to help dogs live longer.

Plus, he even entered his own one-year-old thoroughbred Labrador, Zoey, as one of the participants.

With 32,000 dogs already enrolled in the program’s “pack”, the Dog Aging Project aims to understand why dogs tend to age at very different rates and why certain breeds fall prey to different diseases.

“The lifespan of dogs and the spectrum of diseases to which they are exposed vary enormously,” said Daniel Promislow, professor of biology, laboratory medicine and pathology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Some breeds get cancer fairly frequently, some seldom, some have heart problems, some never have heart problems. The main goal of our project is to understand why dogs vary so much in their age and how long live, said Promislow, the project’s lead researcher.

Everyone tends to think of “dog years” as roughly equal to seven human years, but it’s not that simple, the researchers said.

The “dog years” are unclear

Large dogs tend to age faster, up to 10 times faster than humans. On the other end of the spectrum, small dogs can live to be 20 years old and have “dog years” closer to five times human years.

The Dog Aging Project hopes to recruit up to 100,000 pooches over its 10 years, Promislow said. The researchers detailed the project, which was founded in 2018, recently in the journal Nature.

“The more dogs we have, the more power we have to ask scientific questions and better answer them,” Promislow said. In a few months, the team plans to open up their massive dataset to share with scientists around the world.

Akey is currently sequencing the genomes of 10,000 dogs as part of the project.

“This will be one of the largest genetic datasets ever produced for dogs, and it will be a powerful resource not only for understanding the role of genetics in aging, but also for answering more fundamental questions about the evolutionary history and domestication of dogs,” Akey said.

Genetic data will help us “not only better understand the genetic basis of canine diseases to improve canine health, but also make inferences about how domestication and artificial selection have shaped the dog’s genome,” Akey said. .

The study could prove to be a boon for your canine companion, said Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinarian for the American Kennel Club.

“The study of dog aging and longevity has always been fascinating because dogs of different breeds and types are known to have different maturation rates based on their genetic programming,” Klein said. “Studying large groups of dogs of all ages and breeds with an interest in analyzing the DNA of exceptionally long-lived dogs could help us better understand the aging process in dogs, which, in turn, could shed light on the aging process of other creatures, including humans.”

Same age-related diseases as humans

The project could also help improve human health, Promislow said.

“Dogs get a lot of the same age-related diseases that humans do, so if we can understand what the biological or environmental risk factors are for these diseases in dogs, it might help us understand the same things in humans. “Promislow said. “Because dogs age much faster than humans, we can learn what these factors are much faster. What might take decades to learn in humans would take a few years in dogs.”

Joining the project is quite easy – visit dogagingproject.org and register your pet.

Private information will be protected, Promislow said, and data shared with other researchers will be fully anonymized.

Most dog owners will be asked to complete an annual survey that will help researchers track their pet’s health and aging, Promislow said.

Some owners will be asked to submit a cheek swab from their dog so researchers can isolate and analyze the DNA, Akey said. Veterinarians may also be asked to collect fur, feces, urine or blood samples for some canine participants.

And at this point, 1% of dogs who sign up have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial for a drug called rapamycin that could prove a fountain of youth for dogs and humans, Promislow added.

Rapamycin is currently approved for human use to help prevent rejection in organ transplants, Promislow said. But in the lab, the drug has been shown to slow biological processes that contribute to aging.

“It’s an important pathway for regulating how organisms take in nutrients and use them for growth,” Promislow said. “It turns out that in many different organisms in the lab – in worms, fruit flies, mice – when you slow down this pathway, you prolong lifespan.”

More information

The Dog Aging Project tells more about its methods and goals.

SOURCES: Joshua Akey, PhD, professor, Princeton University Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton, NJ; Daniel Promislow, PhD, professor, biology, laboratory medicine and pathology, University of Washington, Seattle; Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinarian, American Kennel Club; Nature, February 2, 2022

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