Humans depend on dogs for a lot of things: for companionship, for support with disabilities, for law enforcement and now for aging research.
Texas A&M and the University of Washington started the Dog Aging Project, and Daniel Promislow, who co-leads the project, says researching dogs can help them better understand human health and aging. That’s because he says both are susceptible to age-related diseases like cancer and heart disease.
“Age, just like in humans, is the single greatest risk factor in all of those diseases. Of course, in dogs, everything is happening much faster,” Promislow says. “We can learn about the biological factors and the environmental factors that shape aging.”
Typically, scientists study mice to learn more about human biology. But Promislow says dogs are better in this case because they often have the same living environments as people.
“Biologically, the same things that are going on in us are going on in dogs,” Promislow says. “But dogs live in our environment, so if we can discover the environmental factors that influence the healthy aging in dogs, they are likely to influence us as well.”
The project is studying dogs in 10,000 homes, and Promislow encourages owners of dogs of all breeds – from Great Danes to Chihuahuas – to participate.
Written by Libby Cohen.