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Promising early results for dog ageing study
'Significant improvements' in the heart function of dogs given rapamycin
Researchers say the initial findings are 'highly encouraging'.
US scientists say they have seen 'significant improvements' in the heart function of a small number of dogs treated with rapamycin, compared to those that received a placebo.
The results are from phase one of the University of Washington's Dog Ageing Project, which aims to extend the healthy lifespan of pet dogs by targeting the ageing process.
Low doses of rapamycin have previously been shown to slow ageing and extend lifespan in mice. In humans, the drug is used in high doses to fight cancer and prevent organ transplant rejection.
Researchers studied a cohort of 24 middle aged dogs. Summarising the results, they said: 'The key findings are 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.'
However, they stressed that this is a small study and the findings must be replicated before conclusions can be drawn with confidence. In addition, there is as yet no evidence that the improvements in heart function indicate an overall improvement in health or slower ageing. And the long-term effects of rapamycin remain to be seen.
Nonetheless, the team say these initial findings are 'highly encouraging' and provide 'strong justification' for the next phase of the trial, which will follow dogs over a period of three to five years.
Once the data analysis is complete, researchers hope to submit a paper for publication in the next few months.