HEATHER HUSON: The project overall is to study aging in dogs. And we quantify aging by monitoring their health over time as well as looking very specifically at their immune function, their behavioral changes, and their physical condition over time. And then in the long run, our goal is to see if we can use a different type of drug therapy to minimize the effects of aging.
Good girl. I think the really nice part here is the dog model, while it is long term, looking at human health, this will have a major impact on dog health as well.
JOHN LOFTUS: Our approach is going to be to give them a reverse transcriptase inhibitor and hopefully reduce inflammation, reduce the incidence of cancer and other diseases related mutations in DNA damage, and ideally, increase lifespan. So certainly, there's a link between inflammation and Alzheimer's. In dogs, we call it canine cognitive dysfunction. But it's actually a very good model for Alzheimer's. And so a lot of the biology behind canine cognitive dysfunction applies to Alzheimer's.
HEATHER HUSON: Alaskan sled dogs offers us the option to basically study a fairly homogeneous population of dogs. So even though they're not a recognized purebred breed of dog, they're still basically a distinct genetic population. And with this athletic background, we could really look at them and say, these dogs have already been conditioned well all of their lives. We just need to acclimate them to unique conditioning. So instead of running on a sled or in front of a four-wheeler, now they're running on a treadmill, or they're pulling a cart down a hallway instead of out on a trail.
Regardless of how long our funding goes for the research and the degree of research that we do, the dog's support is confirmed throughout their lifespan.
I see you. I see you. Thank you.
JOHN LOFTUS: Any procedure that we're doing on these dogs for research is nothing that wouldn't be done on an awake human athlete. So I think these dogs-- we're really providing them a great quality of life. And that's part of the mission of this research, is to improve the quality of life of dogs.
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About 100 retired Alaskan sled dogs will live out their golden years at Cornell University. There they will be observed for ways to reduce the negative effects of aging.