Our best shot at understanding and even reversing human ageing will come not from studying ourselves, but from 10,000 of our canine companions
1 January 2020
IN THE next few weeks, scientists in the US will begin a remarkable medical experiment. They are seeking 100,000 applicants from all walks of life – young, old, rich, poor, urban, rural, fat, thin, black, white, brown. They will winnow them down to 10,000 and then spend years studying every aspect of their health, including why some of them age better and whether drugs might extend their lives.
During the trial, the subjects will be taken out for walks and have their faeces collected in bags. They will have their tummies tickled, fetch sticks, chase balls, sniff one another’s butts and urinate against lampposts. Not because those are part of the experiment, but because the subjects are pet dogs.
The Dog Aging Project, based at the University of Washington in Seattle, has been years in the making but is finally off the leash. First and foremost, it will tell us a lot about the ageing process in dogs, says project leader Daniel Promislow. But the real goal is to understand more about how we ourselves age, and how we might slow it down or even reverse it. It seems our best shot at defeating human ageing will come from studying not ourselves, but 10,000 of our best friends.
The idea of using animals as proxies to study our own ills is nothing new. The edifice of modern human medicine is largely built on animal experiments, particularly mice altered to get human diseases, which can be used to test treatments. But useful as these are, they …