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A common rule of thumb for dog owners is that one year for dogs is equivalent to seven human years. But experts think it is much more complicated. Big dogs tend to age the fastest–maybe 10 times faster than humans–while small breeds may live to be 20 years old, with “dog years” about five times longer than human years.
DAP, founded in 2018, currently has more than 32,000 dogs joining the “DAP Pack,” as the researchers refer to their canine citizen scientists.
Annual surveys are filled out by owners once a dog joins the Pack. Taking measurements is applied to the dogs for the duration of the project. DNA sampling is also collected via cheek swabs for some. Furthermore, veterinarians around the country contribute by providing samples of fur, feces, urine, and blood from selected Pack members.
The sequencing of the genomes of 10,000 dogs represents the largest genetic data set ever produced. The purpose of the study is to find biomarkers that are specific to the dog’s aging, along with questions about the evolutionary history and domestication of dogs.
In an article published in the issue of the journal Nature, the researchers detailed their project and its potential implications for both human and veterinary medicine. In their ‘super-centenarian’ study, they looked at the 300 oldest dogs in the Pack and compared the DNA of the exceptionally long-lived dogs to dogs that lived to the average age for their breed.
“Given that dogs share the human environment and have a sophisticated health care system but are much shorter-lived than people, they offer a unique opportunity to identify the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors associated with healthy lifespan,” said Dr. Daniel Promislow, the principal investigator for the National Institute on Aging grant that funds the project. He is also a professor of biology at the University of Washington (UW) College of Arts and Sciences and of laboratory medicine and pathology at the UW School of Medicine.
The team plans to share the enormous dataset with scientists all over the world. This will give researchers in different fields the opportunity to contribute based on their various interests.
For more information, or to learn how to enroll your dog in the ongoing project: dogagingproject.org
The Dog Aging Project is supported by the National Institute on Aging (grant U19AG057377), a part of the National Institutes of Health, and by private donations.