Critter Corner: Could Canine Life-Extension Research Lead to Breakthroughs for Pets and Humans?

Hayek 1Dear Hayek,

There is a lot of research out there about longevity in humans. Unfortunately, pets don’t live long enough. Is there any research being conducted about longevity and pets? I’d love for my best friend, Kirby the doodle, to be around for as long as possible. Thanks for your help!

Doug Livenlonger

Dear Doug,

I wholeheartedly agree that pets should live a lot longer!

Luckily, so does Oxford-educated scientist, Celine Halioua. Her startup, Cellular Longevity Inc., is developing treatments that extend the life span of dogs while also making them more active in their later years. She’s hoping her findings will help with techniques to help humans live longer, as well.

“Dogs are unquestionably considered the best model of human aging,” says Halioua. “We have co-evolved with them, and they have a shared environment with us. They also develop age-related diseases over time. If we can do this for dogs, people will want it, too.” Her company, operating under the brand Loyal, has raised $11 million and plans to start trials in early 2022 on two compounds with potential anti-aging properties.

Thousands of Pet Owners Want Their Pets to Participate in Trials

Over the past several years, about 30,000 dog owners have entered their pets into other trials to predict how genetic and environmental factors affect dogs’ aging processes. One trial, backed by NIH, called the Dog Aging Project, will involve following about 200 middle-aged dogs for 10 years.

  • Scientists want to use the information to help dogs and people increase healthspan, the period of life spent free from disease.
  • They want to know what factors are associated with better health and longer lives.
  • A subset of participating dogs will be selected to be part of a new clinical study to explore the potential of the drug rapamycin to improve healthspan. These dogs will receive a small, safe dose of the rapamycin, which is used by people to prevent organ transplant rejection and some types of cancer. “Rapamycin seems to delay or reverse aging in pretty much every tissue where it has been looked at,” says Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the University of Washington, who also works with Halioua. He even uses rapamycin himself to reduce inflammation and pain in his shoulder.

“Despite its potential, rapamycin has developed a poor reputation among doctors. It causes a lot of side effects in organ transplant patients.” Kaeberlein expects fewer issues with the low doses in the pills his team is sneaking into the peanut butter they feed the dogs. The hope is that pet owners could expect these animals to live longer—anywhere from six months to three years—and also have better, more active lives.

Halioua and Kaeberlein are Not Hoping for Miracles

Halioua shies away from predicting exactly how much she thinks a dog’s life can eventually be expanded, but she cautions against any expectation of a sci-fi result. “We are not going to make 80-year-old dogs,” she says. She’s also vague on pricing, saying only that Loyal’s products will be “affordable but not dirt cheap” and will come down in price over time.

Loyal is holding out the possibility of eventually expanding its business to humans. In the meantime, Halioua and Kaeberlein are happy not to be working only with mice. “Doing this in an organism that people care about could change a lot about the aging field,” Halioua said.

We will keep you up to date about the studies that are mentioned in this article. For your pets, be sure to listen to veterinary recommendations.

Hope this helps!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

Leave a comment

Thank you for your upload