Could a pill help you and your dog live longer?
Could a drug found in soil in the South Pacific help you and your dog live longer? The drug is called rapamycin, and some believe it may have the ability to slow down the aging process. In fact, researchers say it has already been shown to extend the lives of mice by sixty percent. And, some limited testing with man’s best friend is also gaining attention.
Take the case of an 8-year-old Pomeranian named Sherman, who suffered a stroke in 2015. So weak that he needed to be carried around in his owners’ arms, Sherman was given only a 20 percent chance of survival. Heartbroken, Sherman’s owners sought advice from an herbalist. After doing some research, the herbalist recommend rapamycin. It took contacting six different veterinarians to find one who would prescribe it. Just three days after starting the drug, Sherman showed significant improvement, and sixteen months later, you’d never know he was sick—romping around in the yard at play.
And, then there’s Momo, Sherman’s “brother,” a white Pomsky. At thirteen, Momo was aging, had slowed down significantly, was achy and lacked stamina. Since it worked so powerfully for Sherman, could rapamycin make a difference for Momo, wondered his owners? They decided to give it a try.
“It’s been remarkable,” Paola Anderson, Momo’s owner told CNN. “He’s running around the yard with dogs a third his age.”
Rapamycin has also shown promise at the University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project. After sixteen dogs took the drug, there was noticeable improvement in their heart health. Researchers say images of the heart showed them to be more youthful and functioning better.
“I am never a big fan of unproven therapy that is available without data on side effects,” says Dr. William Rhoades, a geriatrician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “This drug seems to have some important and frightening side effects.”
Current drugs that are essentially the same as rapamycin are used to treat human cancer patients. And studies show that both these drugs and rapamycin can have serious side effects, for example cancer, diabetes, infections and more. With limited research in humans, many warn not to get too excited.
“When these serious side effects are balanced against unproven effectiveness or clear benefit, I am always skeptical,” adds Dr. Rhoades. “In this case, at this stage, the risk outweighs any known benefit.”
But Dr. Monica Mita, co-director of experimental therapeutics at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, is still hopeful that the side effects can be managed.
“The rapamycin story is one of the most surprising, enticing, satisfying and unique stories in the history of medicine,” Dr. Mita wrote in the medical journal Targeted Oncology. “And the end is not near.”
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!