Technology

Early Results Of Dog Longevity Treatment Show Promise


Joyce Crommett breeds a type of dog that, typically, lives fewer than ten years: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. One of them, Billy, has become one of the first dozen pets to be injected with a gene therapy treatment intended to extend dog longevity.”I was thrilled to get him into the program,” Crommett said.The program, a pilot study, was looking for Cavaliers like Billy with an advanced case of a degenerative heart condition called mitral valve disease. Most dogs of this breed eventually get it. And, in most cases, it leads to death. That’s what happened to one of the dogs Crommett loved most. “He only made it to 11,” she said. “It was heartbreaking. Really heartbreaking.” Crommett hoped Billy’s visit to Tufts University’s Veterinary Hospital, would extend his life.”I’ve got fingers crossed that this works,” she said.So does Noah Davidson. He invented the treatment and co-founded the San Diego-based company, Rejuvenate Bio, to develop and bring it to market. He thinks that if his gene therapy can reverse the disintegration of a heart valve in Cavaliers, he’s got proof of concept that it can do more than that. It could also turn back the clock generally on age-related atrophy to the heart, liver and other vital organs in dogs and, potentially, in humans. “It is a software update if your DNA is your operating system,” Davidson said. “And we’re uploading a new app that is overexpressing one particular protein that has been shown to be beneficial across numerous different systems in your body.”A number of researchers have demonstrated that gene therapies can substantially extend the average lifespan of a mouse. Davidson said he decided to focus on longevity science while a post-doc at Harvard Medical School after getting a German Shepherd he named “Bear.” Davidson’s mentor was George Church the famed Harvard biologist who’s making headlines with his plan to genetically resurrect the woolly mammoth. “I came up with the idea along with George’s help to take the genes that we know make mice live longer and turn them into therapies that we can give to older animals,” Davidson said.Church said Davidson’s gene therapy in mice “affected so many different things…osteoarthritis, kidney, heart, high fat diet, obesity was reversed, diabetes and so forth. It’s all about reversal.”In Cavaliers, the early results are specific to mitral valve disease showing a reversal. “When we started working on this in mice, we weren’t even thinking about mitral valve disease,” …

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