Rapamycin May Prolong Dogs’ Lives

The tragedy of having pets is knowing that one day you will have to say goodbye to your loved ones. The average dog lives between 10 and 13 years, depending on its breed, but researchers believe that with the help of a drug called rapamycin, their life can be extended by around three years.

Rapamycin was discovered nearly 50 years ago from soil found on Easter Island, a South Pacific island famous for its mysterious Moai statues. The drug has been approved by the FDA for human use because it suppresses the immune system to prevent it from attacking donated organs.

“Rapamycin appears to have the ability to ‘reset’ immune function by reducing the increase in chronic inflammation that accompanies aging,” said Dr. Matt Kaeberlein of the Dog Aging Project according to Yahoo. “It also appears to have benefits beyond the immune system in all kinds of tissues and organs.”

The first tests on dogs, rats and mice show that the drug is very effective in reducing the aging process. It has been found to reduce age-related declines in mice, especially in the heart, ovaries, brain and oral cavity. It has also been found to boost the immune system response to cancers and COVID-19.

The study found that rapamycin increased the average lifespan of mice by up to 25%. If the same results are found in dogs, then a dog with a lifespan of 12 years could presumably live up to 15 years.

“You can take an old heart or an old immune system, treat a mouse with rapamycin for eight weeks and see that function improve. I know it sounds a bit like science fiction, but when you actually look at the data, it’s pretty remarkable,” Kaeberlein said, according to KRTV.

The drug is found to have serious side effects in humans, including cancer, diabetes, and infections. However, Kaeberlein believes they are partly the result of giving the drug to people who already have health problems. Additionally, the drug will be given in much lower doses to dogs, compared to humans who have undergone organ transplants.

The University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project takes this research a step further by conducting a nationwide study of nearly 600 dogs.

Kaeberlein thinks a dog is just as likely as a mouse to benefit from the effects of rapamycin, although the reaction differs by breed. He thinks that when it is widely used by veterinarians, it will be given to larger dogs around 6 or 7 years old and to smaller dogs around 9 or 10 years old.

The drug is already approved for human use by the FDA, so further studies will help dog owners and veterinarians decide if it’s a safe treatment. “If our trial shows compelling evidence of benefit and few side effects, I suspect many vets will be more comfortable prescribing it to owners who request it,” Kaeberlein says.

There is never a good time to say goodbye to our beloved pets. But if these studies prove to be in line with the researchers’ predictions, we may still be able to have a few more years of memories with our dogs before they cross the Rainbow Bridge.

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