The sad truth is, our beloved dog companions live too short a life. And as our canine buddies age, we do our best to make sure that they remain as healthy and happy as possible during their last years. But what if we can give them a pill that can both increase their lifespan and improve their health even in their later years? This is the potential that Rapamycin offers.
What is Rapamycin?
Rapamycin belongs to a group of drugs derived from a soil bacterium species that belongs to the Streptomyces genus, specifically Streptomyces hygroscopicus. While that sounds like a mouthful, it’s just describing a type of bacteria. The medical properties in this particular Streptomyces species were discovered from soil collected in Rapa Nui, now known as Easter Island, in 1965.
Most of the drugs developed from Streptomyces are antibiotics and immunosuppressants. Rapamycin falls under both categories. The drug is most commonly used in organ transplant patients to help minimize tissue and organ rejection by the recipient body, and in cancer patients.
Recently, lab experiments have shown that rapamycin can lengthen the lifespan of animals from different branches of the animal kingdom - from yeasts to nematodes, fruit flies, and mice. In mice, rapamycin has also been shown to improve cognitive, cardiac, immune, and muscle functions; reduce incidences of cancer; and restore stem cell function.
Rapamycin and Aging in Dogs
With the amazing results of rapamycin treatment in improving both longevity and health in mice, the drug is also currently being tested in middle-aged dogs. The study is still in its early stages, and it hopes to reproduce the same results as those studies involving mice.
Dogs were chosen as the next best candidate because of their relatively short lifespan, compared to humans. This makes for an easier and a more reliably predictive measurement of the drug’s effects.
The aforementioned study is called the Dog Aging Project and is being performed by researchers at the University of Washington.
The Dog Aging Project
The Dog Aging Project was begun in 2015, with the goal of increasing “the longevity and healthspan – the healthy period of life[...]” of companion dogs. The study has two parts: the longitudinal study of aging in pet dogs and rapamycin intervention trial in pet dogs.
The former involves following individual pets “throughout life to understand the biological and environmental factors that determine why some dogs die early or succumb to diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, and dementia, while others live to a relatively old age free from these problems.”
The rapamycin intervention trial involved 24 dogs who were given low-doses of rapamycin for ten weeks. This first phase of the trial has already been completed and early results show that there “were no significant side effects associated with the rapamycin treatment, and there were statistically significant improvements in heart function in the dogs that received rapamycin relative to those that received the placebo, similar to what has been observed in older laboratory mice.”
The second phase of the intervention trial is still being planned and will involve the treatment of middle-aged dogs with low-dose rapamycin over a longer period.
The Future of Dog Health
Through rapamycin treatment intervention, the Dog Aging Project aims to successfully “increase healthy lifespan of middle-aged dogs by 2-5 years or more” within five years. What will this mean for our loyal companions? What will this mean for us?
With full funding, the intervention trial’s success will give our beloved pets not just more years to live; it will also ensure that they will remain healthy during these additional years - their later years. Rapamycin has the potential to both increase a dog’s lifespan and prevent age-related conditions so that our pet can live a fuller life, in every sense of the phrase.
For us, their human companions, this means that we’ll have more years to spend with our furry buddies. And that’s invaluable opportunity that any genuine dog lover would appreciate.
Although rapamycin isn’t available on the open market, we do have an opportunity to extend the lifespan of our dogs and cats by making good choices about their food and supplements. Commercial pet food is not always easily digested, and many dogs and cats lack the essential digestive enzymes that allow them to get the full nutritional benefit of their food. EcoDigestive™ probiotic and enzyme support formula improves your pet’s digestion and the absorption of nutrients in his diet. This naturally leads to a longer, happier, more healthful life. And that’s great for our fur babies, and for us.
The Dog Aging Project, University of Washington
- “Could Rapamycin Help Humans Live Longer?,” The Scientist
- “Introduction to Rapamycin Medicine,” The Medical Practice of Alan S. Green, M.D.
- “Is This the Anti-Aging Pill We’ve All Been Waiting For?” MIT Technology Review