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It sounds like a miracle drug. And it has been, for people who've undergone organ transplants. When these patients are given rapamycin, it slows down their immune system and their bodies don't reject the new liver, say, or heart.
Scientists have discovered that rapamycin also has life-extending properties in all the species it's been tested on, including mice. Not only did the mice live longer, but they had better cardiovascular systems and memories--no matter HOW old they were when they were given the drug.
Now doctors are testing the drug on 20 beloved household pets in Seattle. All the dogs in the study are large breeds that are older than six; big dogs die sooner than smaller pups, though scientists don't know why. If rapamycin acts the same way in these dogs that it did on mice--by slowing the degenerative process of cells--then these pooches should live on average about a year longer, and have a healthier, happier old age. (Bigger dogs now live an average of 11 years.)
So far none of the owners has reported side effects in their dogs. That makes the researchers very happy. “The last thing we want to do is harm people's pets,” one told the MIT Technology Review.
via The Dodo