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The Dog Aging Project seeks to understand the determinants of dog aging
Dr. Kate Creevy was just starting her career as a member of the Veterinary Faculty for Small Animals at the University of Georgia Veterinary College when approached by Daniel Promislow. Promislow, a faculty member in the Department of Genetics at UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, had run a laboratory for studying fruit flies and was intrigued by an article on the genetics of size in dogs. He wondered why smaller dogs live longer than their larger counterparts.
Together, the two formed the basis for the Dog Aging Project. As a partner institution alongside six other veterinary schools across the country, University of Georgia researchers are looking for new participants in the study.
The United States is home to nearly 90 million dogs, and to date, nearly 30,000 dog owners from across the country have volunteered for this collaborative scientific research project dedicated to understanding the biological and environmental determinants of dog aging over a five-year period, 23 -Million dollar project funded by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.
“By summer 2021, we hope that 60,000 pack members will be eligible for additional studies. These animals bring so much to our lives. Our entire team is committed to extending the quality of life of dogs and their humans into old age, ”said Creevy, DAP chief veterinarian and now associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedicine at Texas A&M University.
A selected number of participants can also take part in a clinical trial with the drug rapamycin. The UGA cardiologist and associate professor for small animal medicine and surgery Dr. Mandy Coleman is helping to lead the study nationwide.
Rapamycin is an immunosuppressive drug that is used in humans to fight organ rejection and some cancers. However, scientists at the Dog Aging Project believe it can be beneficial in prolonging healthy heart function in dogs – by effectively increasing the “health span” or the length of time a patient is most active, healthy, and disease-free .
“This study is truly unique in its aim and breadth, and of mutual benefit to dogs and humans,” said Coleman. “As veterinarians, testing the effects of rapamycin in dogs is attractive because the results are directly applicable to our patients and offer the opportunity to have healthier and happier patients longer than we do today. However, this work can also affect human health. People and service dogs share a common environment so they experience many of the same environmental aging factors on a daily basis. Our results could have a huge impact on how we view and approach aging in both species. “
All types of dogs are welcome, but researchers specifically look for purebred and mixed dogs in the following categories:
- Large breed dogs weighing between 70 and 100 pounds, particularly breeds other than Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds (the most common breeds in the U.S.)
- Giant breed dogs weighing more than 100 pounds such as Great Danes, wolfhounds, and mastiffs
- Hunting dogs, spaniels, pointers, terriers, bulldogs, and pit bulls (purebred and mixed breeds)
- Working dogs such as herding, K9 and service dogs
- Dogs that live in rural areas, small towns, and large cities
- Dogs in the Athens area are being considered for an upcoming clinical trial
“Healthy aging is the result of both genetics and the environment. It is very important for us to examine dogs that live in all kinds of environments, from farm dogs to city dogs. Right now we’re specifically recruiting dogs from areas where we don’t have as many participants as we’d like – like this one! “Stated Promislow, DAP investigator and co-director, now a professor at the University of Washington
Since the DAP is a long-term study, puppy participants are particularly advantageous for the project. The research team wants to follow dogs for a lifetime.
“A better understanding of the health implications of the presence and timing of neutering and neutering your dogs is of particular interest to the veterinary community,” said Creevey. “When we follow puppies through neutering or neutering, or through reproductive activity, we learn a lot about how these events affect healthy aging.”
Join the pack
To participate in the Dog Aging Project, the owners nominate one dog (one per household) on the project website DogAgingProject.org. They are then invited to set up a personal research portal where they can answer scientific surveys about their dog and upload veterinary files.
As a member of the Dog Aging Project Pack, participants are asked to complete an annual health survey of their dog, lasting two to three hours, and several other shorter surveys (an estimated 10 to 30 minutes each) spread out throughout the year.
Once a dog is a member of the Dog Aging Project Pack, it may be eligible for a variety of other research activities (all voluntary) that may include genetic analysis, taking biological samples, or even participating in a clinical trial.
The dog aging project is supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute for Aging Research (Grant 5U19AG057377-03).
For more information or to nominate your dog, visit dogagingproject.org.