The the National Council on Aging funds the Dog Aging Project. The citizen-science study aims to help both dogs and people live longer, healthier lives. And you can enrol your pet as well!
The Dog Aging Project and Its Benefits for Human Life
Dogs and humans share a handful of genetic markers and diseases. Dogs, on the other hand, have shorter life spans (unfortunately), which makes them the ideal subjects for longitudinal studies. Scientists from half a dozen universities gathered to study our canine friends. Their goal is to unravel how genetics, lifestyle, and the environment influence human aging. Moreover, the research also aims to research a new drug – rapamycin – in clinical trials designed for dog subjects. The drug promises increased health spans for our pets and us.
Daniel Promislow, the lead researcher of the study, explained that dogs, being so varied in size, shapes, and breeds, make the perfect candidates to study in the framework of sophisticated immune systems. And since their lives are sped up, science can learn from them in a couple of years what it could learn from humans in decades.
Studying the genome sequence of dogs, therefore, could open up an entire new realm of science and of possibilities.
What Do the Dog Aging Project Researchers Hope to Find?
If you want your furry friend to participate in the project, all you need to do is enroll it and send a swab from inside its mouth. The entire testing is non-invasive. Also, the Dog Aging Project is covering the cost of sequencing the dog’s genome, so you as an owner are free of any financial burdens.
Once they receive the swabs – and keep in mind the project needs at least 1,000 dogs to generate statistically viable results – the scientists will test if variations in the dogs’ genome correlates with variations in the frequency of particular diseases or behaviors.
Since dogs and people are not that different after all, the specialists will also factor in environmental variations. Since climate change already takes a toll on people’s lives, it is only natural to assume environmental factors also affect dogs to some extent.
For that, the project aims to research the air quality the dog breathes, the water quality it drinks, exposure to pesticides, and even home-living conditions (carpeted homes vs. hardwood homes).
After they analyze such data, the scientists will be able to extract molecular biology information and draw conclusions.
According to Promislow, the collection of canine’s data and their applications to human health and life will dawn a new era of interdisciplinary science. Moreover, the better we understand how and why dogs function, the more chances we have to improve people’s lives, as dogs are science’s best friends.
To quote the lead researcher,
“[Gathering canine molecular biology data] tells us not only which genes are affecting which traits, but why they’re affecting traits. It also gives us the opportunity to identify molecular biomarkers that might predict, for example, whether a dog is at high risk of a particular disease or if it’s diagnosed with a disease, what its prognosis might look like.”
How to Nominate Your Friend for the Dog Aging Project
Owners who want to have their best friends participate to the study can nominate their buddies via a survey. In a couple of minutes you will finish the survey and you will help your dog become a beacon of hope for its peers and all humans.
After completing the research, the scientists will make the results available for anyone who wants it. Moreover, individual and extensive data will become available for owners through their vets’ offices. This way, the owner and the vet can discuss in depth the dog’s needs and make the best decision for each pet so it can live a better, healthier life.
A select subgroup of dogs will also participate in the clinical trial for the drug rapamycin – a type of medication that showed promising results in increasing health span and life span in animal trials.
Another important aspect of the Dog Aging Project is that, based on what they find on dogs, the researchers can learn new things about humans. Especially when it comes to new vectors of infectious diseases in the United States, a problem no medical professional can ignore.
Since all dog breeds, sizes, shapes, and ages are more than welcome into the study, why don’t you take a few minutes to nominate your adorable friend and help dogs and humans all over the world live longer and better?
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