Rejuvenate Bio, a Harvard startup co-founded by legendary geneticist George Church claims it can double your dog’s lifespan by adding new DNA instructions to their bodies. The firm, which is building on previous research that has shown tweaking genes in organisms like roundworms – nematodes that have some biological processes that are similar to ours – can up to double their life spans, says the approach could one day work for humans, too.
Earlier this year, Church revealed to podcaster Rob Reid that his company has already experimented on mice, and are testing on dogs now. “Dogs are a market in and of themselves,” Church said during the recent Radical Wellness event in Boston. “It’s not just a big organism close to humans. It’s something people will pay for, and the FDA process is much faster. We’ll do dog trials, and that’ll be a product, and that’ll pay for scaling up in human trials.”
Church and his large Harvard lab hit on the idea of treating pets because developing therapies that address aging in humans and getting them approved would take too long. “You don’t want to go to the FDA and say we extend life by 20 years. They’d say, ‘Great, come back in 20 years with the data,’” Church said during the Boston event.
As MIT Review reports, Church’s Harvard team – also known for its attempt to genetically resurrect the woolly mammoth – has taken a different approach when it comes to the subject of lifespan extension. Rather than focus on increasing human lifespan, it’s instead targeting age-related diseases common to dogs. In fact, last year, the lab contacted the owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with plans for a trial of gene therapy to combat mitral valve disease, a common heart condition that kills about half of the dog’s breed by age 10.
Though Rejuvenate hasn’t revealed what exactly its dog therapy involves, the company says it plans to publish a scientific report on a gene editing technique that restores some biological markers to youthful levels. The technique works by modifying two genes which then act on four major diseases of ageing: heart and kidney failure, obesity, and diabetes. According to Church, the results are “pretty eye-popping.”
While Church’s lab has already tested over 60 different gene therapies on mice and has been successful in reversing a degenerative heart condition, it’s still unknown if the treatments will work in dogs. Tech Review’s investigation suggested though that the company had completed similar preliminary tests on beagles. That said, nobody knows if the procedures worked or not, but if they did, it won’t take long for people to want to try out similar remedies. Church has previously said that he would sign up as a human subject should it prove safe. Essentially, Church has said, the objective is to “have the body and mind of a 22-year-old but the experience of a 130-year-old.”
Reference: MIT Review