NIA's intervention testing program (ITP) - where does the journey take us now?

While this paper briefly outlines the history of the "intervention testing program", trying to find life extending drugs in mice, I want to comment on a tangential paragraph. As is known to anyone following the literature, the ITP identified rapamycin as the first drug to robustly extend maximum life span. Now the question arises how best to translate this data to humans? One important step will certainly be a long term study in long-lived animals.

And there exists an ingenious proposal for such a project (1, 2):

Matt Kaeberlein and Daniel Promislow at the University of Washington ... have been considering the potential value of a study in dogs living freely in the same environmental conditions as humans. They propose a small trial using 60 pet dogs that typically have life spans of 8–10 years, 30 of which would receive rapamycin and 30 would not. The trial would be started at 6 years of age, and the dogs would be monitored for cardiac function and other aging phenotypes such as development of type 2 diabetes and cancer until death. Such a study might reveal whether rapamycin retards aging per se, or acts principally by reducing late-life disease, but a larger study will probably be necessary to establish this unequivocally.

This basically outsources the lab work to pet owners. The idea is obviously brilliant, though, not completely novel. I have myself briefly collaborated on a project trying to get this done with mice. One of the biggest hurdles is getting enough people to participate - since such study must be large due to increased heterogeneity inherent to its design. Thus coordinating such a project through a university or some other body that is able to promote it makes sense. It goes without saying that large scale roll-out of this study type could save billions of dollars at virtually no cost.

The dog project by Kaeberlein is open to donations (3). Curiously, his wordpress page layout is even uglier than my blog. Unbelievable!

1. Age (Dordr). 2015 Apr;37(2):9761. doi: 10.1007/s11357-015-9761-5. Epub 2015 Mar 1.
NIA's intervention testing program at 10 years of age.
Warner HR

2. Hayden EC (2014) Pet dogs set to test anti-aging drug. Nature 514: 546