A Drug to Help Pets Live Longer

Is there finally an answer to our prayers to extend the length of life of our dog family members?

Many likely learned last week that a San Francisco biotech company called Loyal is one step closer in the development of a drug that may extend a dog’s life by the company’s goal of one year. Loyal has received approval from the FDA to proceed to the next level of testing.

This is the first time the FDA has indicated a willingness to endorse anything like a longevity drug, which is incredibly exciting and, if successful, would be remarkable. Notably, this drug was discovered in the process of pursuing human longevity, since in many ways dogs age similarly to humans, so researchers started tests with dogs. We are still years away from FDA approval for this drug, called LOY-001, since it must now go through extensive clinical trials.

LOY-001 is proposed to be used only in healthy dogs over the age of seven weighing more than 40 pounds. It would be delivered by a veterinarian’s injection and need to be repeated every three to six months.

The medication targets a growth and metabolism hormone called IGF-1, which seems to be size-related in dogs. That is, larger dogs have higher levels of the hormone than do smaller dogs. Notably, also, larger dogs tend to age faster and thus die younger than do smaller dogs, and the higher level of IGF-1 in larger dogs is one of the suspected reasons.

The drug company’s hypothesis is that modulating this hormone may work to slow down the aging of large and giant breed dogs which likely have higher levels of IGF-1. Loyal does not claim to make immortal dogs, but rather simply to decrease the rateof aging, which will hopefully mean that treated pets will be healthier for longer. The answers to how much healthier and how much longer is part of the upcoming trials.

While this is exciting news, and as a veterinarian I am thrilled to share it with you, we mustn’t get too excited. First, the drug does not prevent pets from getting sick, and second, it is not proposed to extend the lives of all dogs. This therapy, if successful and approved, will help only our large and giant breed dogs live a while longer.

Aging is a sad inevitability, but what a marvel of science it is that individual pathways in the aging process might finally be identified and targeted to help slow it down. How many times have each of us said we would give just about anything for a little more time together? Maybe there will be something to give sometime soon.

And that would be an answer to our prayers.

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