Recent advances in geroscience have begun to explain the molecular mechanisms that link aging with disease, making age the greatest risk factor for most causes of mortality. Potential therapeutic strategies to delay age-related disability and disease and increase healthy lifespan have emerged. Among these is rapamycin, a drug intervention that has been shown to increase lifespan and healthspan in rodent models.
Companion animals are subject to similar risk factors, receive comparable medical care, and develop many of the same age-related diseases humans do. Dr. Matt Kaeberlein, of the Dog Aging Project, conducted a study of a small group of healthy middle-aged dogs receiving either a dose of rapamycin or a placebo. Dogs age similarly to humans, but their lives are much shorter and they age more quickly; therefore aging studies on dogs can yield answers in as little as three to five years, as opposed to human clinical trials that can take decades. The results yielded no clinical side effects and an echocardiography seemed to show improvement in cardiac function. Based on these findings, another, longer study will be done with a larger group of dogs in order to confirm the effects on heart function and behavior. It will also help to determine whether there are differences in mortality and prevalence of age-related diseases.
Dr. Kaeberlein’s work in translational geroscience seeks to close the gap between promising lab findings and possible applications for humans and to improve the quality of life for pets and their owners. You can read his most recent paper here or you can watch his presentation from the joint OFAS-New York Academy of Sciences conference Aging and Nutrition: Novel Approaches and Techniques.