Dogs are among the most loved of pets, but hinging your happiness on a fluffy, four-legged pal comes with one mortal downfall: they don’t live for very long. Now, a start-up is looking to see if we can change that by making an anti-aging pill for dogs with the goal of increasing their longevity. Better yet, if it works, there’s hope it could inform anti-aging therapies for humans, too – and who doesn’t want to join the centenarian club with their dog?
The company is called Loyal, and while it’s too early in the game to have reached any positive clinical results, their goal is to conduct trials backed by veterinary medicine in the search for a long-life elixir for our dogs. But how can you make a dog live longer?
Loyal is beginning with research, so far conducting studies that look into the way aging affects breeds and older animals. LOY-001 is working on a product to be given every three-to-six months for larger dogs that typically only live to half the age of smaller breeds. Meanwhile, LOY-002 is working on supporting healthy aging in older dogs with a product that involves administering a daily pill. Both products are in their pilot study phase, with estimated launch dates of 2026 and 2024 respectively.
Their research also centers around the influence of epigenetics on dog aging, which is the study of how our behaviors and environment can alter the way our genes work. Epigenetic changes aren’t part of our DNA, they’re reversible changes that act on the way DNA is expressed so that our physical characteristics differ from what our genes code for. Loyal’s research is reportedly the largest dog epigenetics study ever conducted.
“DNA methylation is one of the many types of epigenetic modifications added to DNA that control which parts of the DNA are active in a cell,” writes Zane Koch for Loyal. “Recently, researchers have discovered that as time passes the patterns of DNA methylation in cells throughout an organism’s body change [...] These changes in DNA methylation are closely linked to aging. So much so that computational models, called ‘epigenetic clocks,’ can accurately predict the age of an organism based on just its DNA methylation.”
It's their view that understanding how these molecular changes contribute to aging could provide better benchmarks for establishing the health of a dog, improving their care in later life, as well as speeding up the process of testing longevity drugs. Which, as it happens, is exactly what they’re trying to do.
“At Loyal, we are building advanced tools that leverage our unique dog epigenetic datasets to predict health, longevity, and improve drug development,” Koch continued. “Soon you and your dog may benefit from these insights, either directly through a test informing health and lifestyle or indirectly through faster therapeutic development.”
Dogs are a better candidate for studying this kind of aging for the simple fact that they don’t live for as long as we do. This reasoning is one of the perks that’s made Caenorhabditis elegans such a popular aging research candidate, as an entire lifecycle can be observed very quickly. This means replicable and reliable results can be observed much faster than if you were waiting around for Participant 537, Gerald, to reach his 70th birthday.
If Loyal sees success with their anti-aging pills for dogs, it could be that we benefit too, as the insights it reveals on how and why we age translate into interventions for slowing those processes, and drugs that can better support us as it happens. We’re a long way off from any concrete conclusions just yet, so the researchers at Loyal will have to be tenacious and persistent with their investigations.
Like a dog with a bone, as it were.
[H/T: Popular Mechanics]