The loss of a beloved pet is a heartbreaking event, and while inevitable, there might soon be a way to delay that grief among dog owners, at least for a little while.
A new drug is currently in the works that could one day extend the lifespan of some large canine breeds.
The medicine has been developed by the veterinary biotech company, Loyal for Dogs, and while it still needs to undergo clinical trials, officials at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said in a letter to the company that its initial data is “sufficient” to show “a reasonable expectation of effectiveness,” according to a copy of the letter supplied to The New York Times.
“Today, I’m so proud to announce that Loyal has earned what we believe to be the FDA’s first-ever formal acceptance that a drug can be developed and approved to extend lifespan,” writes Loyal’s founder and CEO Celine Halioua in a press release on November 28.
“In regulatory parlance, we have completed the technical effectiveness portion of our conditional approval application for LOY-001’s use in large dog lifespan extension.”
LOY-001 is the name of the first version of the drug, which is targeted at dogs 7 years of age and older, weighing at least 40 pounds (18 kilograms). It comes as an injection that can be given to dogs every three to six months by vets.
At the same time, scientists at Loyal are also working on two other versions, called LOY-002 and LOY-003, which would be taken as daily pills. LOY-003 is designed for all older dogs except for the smallest breeds.
All versions of the drug work by limiting the power of a growth-related hormone, called insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which as well as contributing to growth is linked to aging and longevity in animals like roundworms, fruit flies, and mice.
Whether those associations also extend to dogs is unclear, but there is reason to suspect that high levels of IGF-1 may accelerate aging in canines.
Compared to smaller dogs, like Chihuahuas – which live between 14 and 16 years on average – larger dogs like Great Danes only live between 7 and 10 years.
Larger dog breeds also tend to show highly elevated levels of IGF-1 – up to 28 times as high as smaller dogs. In canines, this hormone drives cell growth and is part of what allows larger dog breeds to grow so large.
But at older ages, this hormone may have serious downsides. While no one hormone is likely responsible for all the processes of aging, this is one of the most well-studied pathways in animal models and an avenue worth exploring further.
An unpublished observational study from Loyal, which looked at the health of more than 450 large dogs, ultimately found that canines with lower insulin levels experienced reduced frailty and a higher quality of life.
After seeing these results and reading through more than 2,300 pages of Loyal’s technical information, officials at the FDA have confirmed the potential for LOY-001 to extend dog lifespans.