By Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Nov. 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Calling all dogs! 10,000 of them, to be exact.
The 40 researchers behind the Dog Aging Project want many of man's furry companions to be enrolled in a 10-year study of what helps canines live long, healthy lives.
"Aging is the major cause of the most common diseases, like cancer and heart problems. Dogs age more rapidly than people do and get many of our same diseases of aging, including cognitive decline," said project co-director Matt Kaeberlein. He's a longevity and healthspan researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in Seattle.
"They also share our living environment and have a diverse genetic makeup," he added in a university news release. "This project will contribute broadly to knowledge about aging in dogs and in people."
A formal launch of the initiative -- jointly operated by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences -- will be announced Thursday at the annual Gerontological Society of America meeting, in Austin, Texas.
People will be able to nominate their dog as a candidate for study through the project's website. Dogs of every age, size, gender, neutered or not, healthy or with chronic illnesses, and in any location are invited to be nominated.
In the nomination process, owners will provide detailed health and lifestyle information about their dog(s) through questionnaires and veterinary medical records.
Daniel Promislow, project co-director and biology of aging expert, said, "Their information will allow us to begin carrying out important research on aging in dogs." Promislow is a professor of pathology and biology at the University of Washington.
During the course of the study, four separate measures will be undertaken:
- Tests will measure each dog's changes in physical function as it gets older.
- Genome sequencing data from all 10,000 dogs will be integrated with health measurements and behavioral traits.
- Scientists will look for molecular predictors of disease, decline or longevity.
- About 500 middle-aged dogs will be part of a trial to assess the effects of rapamycin on cognition (mental skills), heart function, healthspan and lifespan.
Information on the enrolled dogs will be gathered throughout their lives in an open-data platform, which means the data can be analyzed by scientists worldwide in a variety of ways.
Project co-director Dr. Kate Creevy is an associate professor of veterinary internal medicine at Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. She said, "We are excited to work with companion dogs in this research program. As a veterinarian, it is important to me that our work benefits dogs directly. But our work with dogs has the added value of shedding light on the human aging experience as well."