Longevity Expert Series: Dr. Matt Kaeberlein and the Dog Aging Project
Dr. Matt Kaeberlein is not affiliated with ProHealth, and no endorsement of our products is implied. Our team respects the scientists, researchers, and doctors who are making breakthroughs in longevity science, and our goal is to bring more visibility to these pioneers.
One of life’s cruelest truths is that we outlive our beloved pets. Sharing our lives with companion animals has been an aspect of human society for thousands of years, providing us with physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. Although our dogs’ and cats’ lifespans are sadly not as long as our own, their shorter lives can provide us with valuable information about our own health and longevity. One person leading the field of research on canine health and aging is Dr. Matt Kaeberlein. As a prominent professor and researcher, Dr. Kaeberlein is a pioneer in this unique field, identifying the genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that impact dog longevity—and, with that, how it can impact ours.
Who Is Matt Kaeberlein?
Matt Kaeberlein, PhD., is a notable researcher known for his work in the field of biogerontology—a subfield of gerontology that focuses on the biological processes of aging and how to slow them. He is particularly well-known for his research on interventions that can extend lifespan and improve healthspan.
Dr. Kaeberlein has an impressive resume, including being a distinguished visiting professor of biochemistry at the Aging Research Institute of Guangdong Medical College in Dongguan, China, the co-director of the University of Washington Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, the director of SAGEWEB, and the founding director of the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute at the University of Washington.
He has conducted significant research—over 250 authorships on PubMed—on topics like the role of calorie restriction and rapamycin in extending lifespan and delaying age-related diseases. His work has contributed to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying aging and has potential implications for developing interventions to promote healthy aging in humans—as well as our furry friends, as we’ll see with his work on The Dog Aging Project.
Dr. Matt Kaeberlein (Source: Geroscience.com)
The Dog Aging Project
Dr. Kaeberlein is a co-founder of The Dog Aging Project—a research initiative studying the biology of aging in dogs. It is one of the most extensive longitudinal studies conducted on canine aging, aiming to understand the genetic and environmental factors that influence dogs' aging and hopefully help extend their lives.
Dog owners who participate in the project provide information about their pet’s health, lifestyle, and behavior, including blood and saliva samples. Dr. Kaeberlein and other scientists use this data to identify patterns and correlations related to aging and age-related diseases—in both dogs and humans.
As dogs share the same environment as their owners and are subject to many of the same health influences, these shared factors make dogs valuable subjects for aging research. Plus, dogs and humans often develop similar age-related diseases, and dogs have a (sadly) shorter lifespan, so studying the genetic basis behind how they develop in dogs can potentially lead to faster advancements in human disease research.
Research in the Dog Aging Project
You can see here that The Dog Aging Project has already published dozens of peer-reviewed clinical studies. One trial currently underway at the Dog Aging Project is TRIAD (The Test of Rapamycin In Aging Dogs), a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin. At low doses, rapamycin has been shown to increase lifespan and delay or reverse many age-related disorders in mice, so the research team is now studying the effects in dogs. In a smaller study of 24 dogs, those who received rapamycin for 10 weeks showed improvements in heart function with no clinical side effects.
The Dog Aging Project has also looked at the lifespan of different canine species. We know that size is the greatest predictor of dog lifespan, with large dogs aging more rapidly than small dogs. According to Kaeberlein and his team, hormones like insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) might play a role. IGF-1 increases size (in both dogs and humans), but it may also shorten lifespan in some canine species. The greater growth rate of larger dogs may also make them more susceptible to diseases and complications. Also, research has shown that mixed-breed dogs tend to have a longer life expectancy than purebred dogs. During the pure-breeding process, specific genetic traits are strongly selected for, but this can also mean that disease-related traits get inadvertently selected for and passed down more frequently.
What About NMN for Dogs?
If you’ve been wondering how to increase your dog’s lifespan, you have probably considered using NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) or another NAD+ precursor. But is NMN actually safe for dogs? While we know that what’s safe for humans isn’t always necessarily safe for dogs (chocolate, anyone?), this does not seem to be the case for NMN.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2020, researchers looked at NMN's safety and potential toxicity in a small group of beagle dogs. The ten dogs were 4 years old and weighed between 9 and 11 kilograms; half were randomly chosen to receive 10 mL of NMN once or twice daily. After two weeks of NMN administration, the researchers found that this high-dose and short-term oral administration caused mild or minimal side effects. The lower dose (once-per-day treatment) was especially safe and well-tolerated. In contrast, the double dose caused a mild but not clinically relevant increase in creatinine and uric acid—two markers of kidney health—and slight increases in one liver enzyme.
However, the higher doses of NMN also benefited the dogs’ health by improving blood lipid levels and metabolic responses. While this study was promising for showing the safety of NMN in dogs, it says nothing about how it benefits long-term canine health and longevity.
Our pets are now living longer than ever before—and part of that may be due to research like that of Matt Kaeberlein and his team at the Dog Aging Project. Studying the genetic and environmental basis behind how diseases develop in dogs is a vital stepping stone for both increasing our pets’ lifespans and potentially even our own. Although humans aren’t dogs, we have surprisingly similar disease conditions and internal makeups, leading to faster advancements in human longevity research—and big thanks to Dr. Matt Kaeberlein for leading the pack (no pun intended) in this field.
Creevy KE, Akey JM, Kaeberlein M, Promislow DEL; Dog Aging Project Consortium. An open science study of ageing in companion dogs [published correction appears in Nature. 2022 Aug;608(7924):E33]. Nature. 2022;602(7895):51-57. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04282-9
Kaeberlein M, Creevy KE, Promislow DE. The dog aging project: translational geroscience in companion animals. Mamm Genome. 2016;27(7-8):279-288. doi:10.1007/s00335-016-9638-7
McCoy BM, Brassington L, Jin K, et al. Social determinants of health and disease in companion dogs: a cohort study from the Dog Aging Project. Evol Med Public Health. 2023;11(1):187-201. Published 2023 May 13. doi:10.1093/emph/eoad011
McCune S, Promislow D. Healthy, Active Aging for People and Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2021;8:655191. Published 2021 Jun 7. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.655191
You Y, Gao Y, Wang H, et al. Subacute Toxicity Study of Nicotinamide Mononucleotide via Oral Administration. Front Pharmacol. 2020;11:604404. Published 2020 Dec 15. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.604404