Friday, April 24, 2015

Family Dogs as Lab Rats?

Researchers at the University of Washington are conducting drug testing on family dogs.

The drug is rapamycin. It's an immunosuppressant used to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.

It has been found to increase life span in mice, and now scientists are wondering whether it might do the same for human beings. But rapamycin is out of patent--which means that no astronomical profits are in sight for the company that develops a new drug from it.

Researchers Matt Kaeberlein and Daniel Promislow are hoping that by exploring new uses for out-of-patent drugs, and using family dogs as their subjects, they can bring relatively low-cost medicines to market that would benefit both people and dogs.
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Researcher Matt Kaeberlein. He says his dog will participate in the study when it's old enough.
So they're asking people to volunteer their dogs. They've had at least 1000 applications, and have selected 32 for a 9-month pilot study starting this spring. The pilot study will use only a few breeds and will focus on determining the appropriate dosage and detecting improvements in heart functioning. If it's successful, they will conduct a larger study using many dogs of different breeds,

The dogs in the study will be dogs in late middle age from breeds expected to live 8 or 9 years. They are hoping to extend the dogs' lives by one or two years, and to extend the lives of smaller breeds by as much as four years.
Researcher Daniel Promislow and his dog Frisbee
Their website offers a form for submitting your dog for consideration, as well as giving more information about their aims, and (of course) soliciting donations to support the study.

The ultimate aim is to develop one or more drugs that will increase human longevity.
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I can easily see why lots of people would want their aging dogs to participate.

Personally, I would want to be very careful before volunteering my own pet for any drug study. Rapamycin has some nasty side effects (as do most drugs). Although the researchers state that the dosage will be low, and the dogs' well being will be their primary concern, I'm still not sure I'd want Caitlin to be the guinea pig.

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