The quest for immortality is one of man’s eternal goals.
Short of that, a team of scientists in the US are planning tests on pet dogs to see whether a drug commonly in organ transplants could help extend their lifespan.
Developed as an anti-rejection drug for patients who have just undergone kidney transplants, rapamycin has recently been shown to extend the lives of mice by more than 10%.
“It’s not just lifespan that is extended but many age-related declines in function are also improved by Rapamycin,” says Matthew Kaeberlein, associate professor of Pathology at Washington University, Seattle. “So cardiac function is improved, cancer seems to be delayed, immune function – at least to some extent – is improved, cognitive function is improved.”
According to the scientists, the drug works by targeting a protein that regulates the rate at which cells in the body reproduce, while increasing its ability to manage and recycle waste.
Their contention is that if it proves effective in dogs, it may work in humans too, and could prove a game changer in the field of preventative medicine.
“This is a much more efficient approach to promoting health than waiting until people are sick with a disease and treating a disease at that point,” says Kaeberlein.
They believe pet dogs should provide a more realistic test than lab mice of how the drug would work in humans, as pets are subject to the same environmental influences and the same age-related diseases as their masters.
“One of the most amazing things about dogs is that they are more variable than any species on the planet. All you have to do is put a Great Dane and a Chihuahua side by side and even a little kid can tell you ‘Yes this is an incredibly variable species’,” says Daniel Promislov, Professor of Pathology and Biology at the University of Washington.
The researchers hope the trial, which will be carried out on around a dozen dogs, will produce rapid results, both on the drug’s effects on heart function and other health measures, as well as any possible side-effects.