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Scientists say drug may extend the lifespan of dogs

SEATTLE -- Researchers at the University of Washington want to find out if it's possible to extend the lifespan of a dog.

They believe a drug used by transplant patients could also have an impact on the health and longevity of man's best friend.

Matthew Kaeberlein and Daniel Promislow received an unrestricted $200,000 grant from the UW to study Rapamycin's potential effects on the longevity of dogs.

Rapamycin is used in combination with other drugs to prevent organ rejection in patients who have received an organ transplant. The drug was approved by the FDA for use in humans in the mid '90s and is now "off patent."

Kaeberlein, who is also is a proud owner of two dogs, has performed his own studies on mice and cites "50 other studies" that indicate Rapamycin has improved the longevity of middle aged mice by nearly 40 percent with few side effects.

"Knowing that we can do it safely and it's almost certain to work, it just seems obvious to me that this is the next step," said Kaeberlein, an associate professor and molecular biologist at UW.

He want to test Rapamycin on several breeds of mid- to large-sized dogs that are five to seven years old and study them for a period of five years.

Kaeberlein believes dogs are the next step before any human trials are considered because dogs suffer similar ailments with humans, including heart and kidney disease.

"The real goal is to delay the chronic and degenerate diseases of aging as long as possible, and that's what we see in the mice and that's what we expect to see in dogs," said Kaeberlein, who said he'd gladly offer his own dogs as part of the study.

He won't be involved in deciding which dogs make it into the study. To avoid any conflict of interest, a panel of veterinarians will monitor the study will make those decisions.

Kaeberlein says he's hoping for "citizen scientists" who are also dog owners will join the research project which needs more funding to be successful. Interested dog owners can sign up at dogagingproject.com. They hope to start the nationwide study in the next six months.

"I think that's what most owners want, more quality time with their pet," said Kaeberlein.

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