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A new drug could extend the lifespan of large dogs: This is what we know so far

Time seems to pass much faster for dogs than humans cutting their lives short, but a new drug could soon be available to help extend the lives of some dogs.

Life-extending drug for dogs

A drug developed by a San Francisco start-up has cleared a key hurdle in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory process to being approved. The drug in question is codenamed LOY-001, and its maker Loyal, a biotech company pioneering longevity treatments for canines, designed it to reduce age-associated disease thus extending a dog’s lifespan.

The drug is intended for large- and giant-breed dogs, whose expected lifespan can be as little as half that of small breeds. Large dogs can live on average between 8 to 12 years according to the American Kennel Club, while small breeds range from 10 to 15 years on average.

But at the extremes of how long dogs can live the AKC lists Bernese mountain dogs as little as 7 years and Chihuahuas as long as 17 years. Why exactly this is, is not completely understood, but it is though that the fast growth of larger dogs from puppy to adult may increase abnormal cell growth.

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A new drug could extend the lifespan of large dogs: This is what we know so far

The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine found a reasonable expectation of effectiveness for the ability of LOY-001 to reduce levels of key biomarker IGF-1. Furthermore, it showed beneficial impact on functional outcomes in dogs. The data was supported by an observational study involving 452 companion dogs of 84 different breeds, aged two to 18.

The company has been given expanded conditional approval which lasts for five years. This gives Loyal “an accelerated pathway” to collect the remaining effectiveness data and eventually apply for full approval. The biotech firm anticipates that it can achieve that and make its pharmaceutical available in 2026.

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How does the dog lifespan extending drug work?

Loyal sees “the short lifespan of big dogs not as inevitable, but as a genetically-associated disease caused by historical artificial selection, and therefore amenable to targeting and treatment with a drug,” according to Brennen McKenzie, Loyal’s director of veterinary medicine. It’s been observed that breeding for size causes these dogs to have elevated levels of IGF-1, a hormone that drives cell growth. Large dogs have up to 28 times the levels of this hormone compared to small dogs and as a result of this it is believed to reduce their lifespan.

The biotech start-up has developed LOY-001 to decrease IGF-1 in adult dogs thus increasing longevity. The long-acting drug would be administered by a veterinarian every three to six months. Celine Halioua, the founder and CEO of Loyal told the New York Times that the company is “going to be going for claiming at least one year of healthy life span extension.”