Testing potentially life-extending drugs on humans is neither a quick nor cheap undertaking, and researchers now want to turn to man's best friend for help. In the past, such drugs have been successful on worms and mice, but they've failed when it comes to humans, Nature reports. Dogs, however, suffer from some of the same age-related diseases we do, and they also live in comparable environments—meaning they could offer a better look at how the drugs might affect us. In this case, researchers want to test a drug called rapamycin, which comes from a chemical found in the soil of Easter Island, WBUR reports. Studies in mice have shown that it extends females' lives by 13% and males' by 9%.
University of Washington in Seattle researchers are proposing a pilot trial composed of 30 large dogs aged six to nine whose lifespan is typically no more than 10 years; researchers would provide half of them with the drug. It's not entirely clear how rapamycin, which is used in people to prevent rejection after kidney transplants, contributes to a longer life; one theory is that it keeps cancer at bay. On the downside, it's been tied to a heightened risk of diabetes among the kidney-transplant patients who have taken it. (In other Easter Island news, scientists now believe the islanders weren't as isolated as long thought.)