SeattleAntiFreeze: Dog years

SEATTLE — UW Researcher's studying pill may extend your dog's life.

Just about every "dog person" likes to talk about the bond they have with their pup. But for Rose Bigham, it brings her to tears.

That's because she has to take you back to the beginning: November 13, 2006. It's not the day she got Rascal. It's the day she lost her sister.

Ellen was her "second mother," her best friend, her rock. Ellen fought four and a half years against the mass that was growing on her brain. Eventually it got her. And, in a sense it got Rose too. She felt lost and alone and drowning in grief.

Then she got Rascal.

The beautiful black and white pup chewed and slobbered and played. The border collie mix was oblivious to how the earth had shifted beneath Rose. Thank goodness.

"It was a very difficult time in my life. Having him meant I had to leave the house, I had to go for walks. I had to go outside, and I met other people. I even found another community of folks at the dog park. Who knew?" Rose says, as she strokes the 10 lb. puppy that turned into a 70 lb. dog.

Now Rascal is getting a fair amount of grey in his coat. He started slowing down a bit when he turned eight. And Rose knows that big dogs don't tend to make it far beyond his age.

Rascal brought her back to the living. Rose wants to give him back life. And now, she says it's possible because of the "magic" happening in a University of Washington research lab.

Dog lover and biogerontologist Matt Kaeberlein, has been experimenting with rapamycin, a drug commonly given to people receiving organ transplants. It helps prevent organ rejection.
But in mice, they've also found it does something extraordinary. It's improved strength and cardiac function and considerably extended their lives. The "old man" in the mouse group, Ike, is the equivalent of a 140 year-old person.

So Kaeberlein looked at his own German Shepherd Dobby and Keeshond Chloe, and thought, what if... And the Dog Aging Project was born.

"GUIDE DOG", #SeattleAntifreeze, pt. 40---- UW Researchers may be on the way to lengthening your dog's life. Here's my story on the Dog Aging Project. Much more information on my Facebook page too. As always, feel free to share pics of your pups! They make my day.------ SCRIPT: Every dog person loves skimming pics of their pups. Their furry kids. Especially Rose Bigham ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER i got him as a puppy from a shelter. ((barks)) She can always tell you exactly when Rascal became family. ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER I needed something to keep me going Because this love sprang from a broken heart. ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER so L N is short for ellen Ellen was her big sister, They grew up - but not old - together Cancer killed her. ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER my mom was a single mom, so my sister became my second mom. for sure. and she was the one person my life who was .. she was my rock Without her rock, Rose just wanted to shut down. Crawl into a hole But Rascal became her guide dog, leading her back out to life. ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER having him in my life meant i had to take him out for walks,. i had to go outside, i had to go and meet other dog people. Because of that bond - she's especially grateful to have met Matt Kaeberlein Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER you're such a little attention hog, aren't you. He has Kayzan Chloe and German Shephard Dobbie Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER he's just chillin out But it's his relationship to mice that's so important. Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER he's an old mouse Kaeberlein and DANIEL Promislow are doing research at UW with a drug called rapamycin, often used to help humans prevent transplant rejection. In mice like Ike here, it's had quite an affect: Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER in human terms, this mouse would be about 140 years. 140? wow, he's an old man. that's right. Signs indicate it could be successful with other animals, pets. And so the Dog Aging Project was born. Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER for me, personally, my fundamental goal is to slow aging in dogs. They opened up research with rapamycin on a couple dozen dogs, including Rascal. Rose says this video shows the change she saw in her 10 year old pup. ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER and that's my dog in his prime again. just suddenly Jumping fences - alert - energetic MML how confident are you that that was because of the drug? hundred percent. no doubt? no doubt. Kaeberlein and Promislow say it was no fluke. Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER over ten weeks, you could see an improvement in all three of these measures of cardiac function. The positive swing in heart function they found in mice was reflected in results for dogs as well. Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER we've been able to increase lifespan by 30, 40, 50 percent by targetting the pathways that affect aging. fundamentally, there's no reason why that can't be done in dogs Now they are ready to go big with the Dog Aging Project DANIEL PROMISLOW/RESEARCHER the more fundraising we do - the more science we can do - the more dogs we can study They want to enroll thousands of dogs, across the country in a new study - to determine if the initial results bear out - and if rapamycin should be available for owners like Rose. MML so if this were through trials, if it were out to market, you'd be on it? ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER i'd buy stock in it! Now the push for funding Matt Kaeberlein/RESEARCHER i think we are racing against the clock for everybody who's got a dog right now. ((nats)) ROSE BIGHAM/DOG OWNER that thrills me because being a big dog - i have always been concerned about how long do i get to keep this guy with me?// like he wants to be with me always and i'm okay with that because i want to be with him always. he's my buddy. ------------------------------- FOR GENERAL INFO: FOR DONATIONS TO SUPPORT THE STUDY:

Posted by Monique Ming Laven on Thursday, May 5, 2016

Kaeberlein and research partner Daniel Promislow opened up the study to a couple dozen dogs, including Rascal. Rose says after just a few doses of rapamycin, Rascal had more energy, more spunk, "It was like he was in his prime again!" Kaeberlein and Promislow say the results from the study bore out the patterns they discovered in mice.

Now, they want to go big. They're in the middle of applying for National Institute of Health (NIH) grants and UW is collecting private donations so they can sign up thousands of dogs across the country to determine if rapamycin should be available for dog owners like Rose.

"We've been able to increase lifespan by 30, 40, 50 percent by targeting the pathways that affect aging. Fundamentally, there's no reason why that can't be done in dogs," Kaeberlein says.

Rose wants that for Rascal. He's at his usual spot, next to her chair. "LN" is tattooed on her wrist, short for Ellen, the sister she still misses. It glides along Rascal's coat as she strokes his fur and tells their story. "I needed something to keep me going, and he sort of propped me up."

Now it's her turn. She just needs a little magic from UW.
To get information and sign your dog up for the study:
To financially support the research:
After the Aurora Bridge crash, people in our area jumped into action, donating hotel rooms, blood, prayers, challenging Seattleites' reputation for being chilly (the "Seattle Freeze"). It inspired me to pass along stories of when we see people in the community coming together, or what I call #SeattleAntifreeze. If you know a story that should be told, let me know.

To read more stories, click on #SeattleAntifreeze.