In news sure to thrill dog lovers everywhere, VCA Animal Hospitals announced that it has completed a trial with the University of Washington of a medicine scientists think might be able to slow aging in man’s best friend. The study looked at the safety and tolerability of rapamycin, a drug that is currently FDA approved for some people undergoing organ transplants, as well as some patients with cancer.
Previously, the drug–which is made by a soil bacterium–had been shown to extend the lives of mice, yeast, flies and worms, according to a recent New York Times story featuring the research. More than 1,500 dog owners applied for their pets to be included in the Seattle trial, which administered the drug in variable doses and included a control group. But just 40 dogs were selected.
Following the study, University of Washington aging scientist Dr. Matt Kaeberlein reported that rapamycin caused no significant side effects, and dogs receiving the medicine had hearts that pumped blood more efficiently. Next up, the team hopes to conduct a 5-year study in 450 dogs, pending much-needed funding, the Times said.
“I found that the human-animal bond is so deep in dog owners that they want to extend and help their companions live longer,” said VCA medical director Dr. Karen Kline said in a statement. “It also allowed us to validate early detection of cardiac and metabolic abnormalities that in and of itself can extend lives.” She added that the work is an “essential building block” for further research on aging in pets.
Rapamycin has long been of interest to scientists studying a range of health issues. In April, the National Cancer Institute kicked off a study to see whether the drug is effective in shrinking osteosarcoma tumors. The work could yield a new treatment option in both dogs and people, particularly children, who develop osteosarcoma at higher rates than adults.
And last June, Rapamycin Holdings rounded up $2.5 million in Series A to advance a modified version of the drug that it hopes can address diseases such as cancer in cats and dogs.