Health & Fitness

Previous canines, new analysis, and the secrets and techniques of ageing

Dogs go through phases in their lives, just like humans, as is obvious to anyone who has watched their stiff-legged companion with the white muzzle wake themselves to go for another walk.

Poets from Homer to Pablo Neruda have taken note of it. As well as folk singers and storytellers. Science is now taking a turn in the hopes that research into how dogs grow and age will help us understand how people age. And like the poets before them, scientists find parallels between the two species.

Her research so far shows that dogs are similar to us in important ways, how they behave in adolescence and old age, and what happens in their DNA as they age. They can be what scientists call the “model” of human aging, a kind that we can study to learn more about how we age and perhaps how we can age better.

Recently, Viennese researchers found that dogs’ personalities change over time. They seem to mitigate in the same way that most people do. The most fascinating part of this study is that, like humans, some dogs are only born old, that is, relatively stable and mature, the kind of puppy that just seems ready for a Mr. Rogers cardigan. “This is Professor Spot for you, thank you, and could we be a bit tidier if we pour nibbles into my bowl?”

Mind you, the Vienna study dogs were all Border Collies, so I’m a little surprised that one of them was mature. That would suggest a certain calm, a willingness to tilt the head and the muse that do not seem to fit the breed, with the desperate desire to constantly hunt sheep, geese, children or Frisbees.

Another recently published paper came to the worrying conclusion that the calculation of seven canine years for each human year is not accurate. Now, to find dog years, you need to multiply the natural logarithm of a dog’s age in human years by 16 and then add 31. Is that clear? It’s actually not as difficult as it sounds as long as you have a calculator or internet access. For example, the natural log of 6 is about 1.8, which multiplied by 16 is about 29, which is plus 31 60. OK, it’s not that easy, even with the internet.

To bring the comparisons home, the researchers compared an aging Labrador Retriever to an aging Tom Hanks. They used a lab because that’s the kind of dog they studied. And they used Tom Hanks because everyone knows Tom Hanks. Obviously, for most of us watching a dog grow older is no fun, but seeing even a beloved celebrity exposed to the irresistible passage of time is kind of comforting. At some point in the future, the A-List may acquire immortality, but not yet.

However, teenagers do not torture their actual mothers. They complain to their people. For some pet owners, this means a double blow. If you happen to have adolescent human children as well as adolescent dogs, and you are all stuck in close proximity to your home due to a global coronavirus pandemic, all I can say is that more research is needed.

Maybe I shouldn’t be frivolous in these research projects. It involves some groundbreaking work and could potentially draw important conclusions. Take the paper with its natural logarithms, for example. To arrive at these conclusions, the researchers looked for patterns of chemical changes in DNA, a process called methylation that doesn’t change the content of genes but changes their activity.

Laboratory tests can tell how old a person is based on their methylation pattern. Thanks to this research, the same can be done for dogs. The results will help researchers study aging in dogs in order to extrapolate the results to humans. None of these studies were conducted on dogs kept in a laboratory. All dogs in the age comparison study were Labrador Retrievers and the owners gave permission for blood samples.

Scientists are unsure whether the physical decline in aging in dogs and humans, in fact in all mammals, is related to the developmental process in previous life or whether the overall decline is a different process. The researchers found that the methylation pattern suggests that the same genes might be involved in both processes.

Good methods of comparing the ages of dogs and humans are important. Dogs are increasingly viewed as good role models for human aging because of the many ways they suffer from it. As the Dog Aging Project, which gathers genetic and other information from large numbers of dogs, publishes on its website, the goal of the research is “Longer, healthier lives for all dogs … and their humans.”

As an aging person, I cannot fault this approach. In 2018 the co-director of the project, Daniel. EL Promislow of the University of Washington in Seattle explained the reasons dogs are good animals for studying aging and getting results that will help people. In essence, they suffer from many similar diseases such as “obesity, arthritis, hypothyroidism and diabetes”. That’s not all, of course, but if we imagine an old dog running funny for the same reasons we do (it hurts), we are not anthropomorphic.

Elinor Karlsson of the Broad Institute described her research on genomics and dogs as follows: “One of the things that really interests us is to first find out if there are things in the DNA of dogs that can actually be explained as to why some of them take a remarkably long time Life. “These findings could be useful in expanding healthy aging in humans.

The study of dog personality changes over time used border collies that were part of the Clever Dog Project at the University of Vienna. The Border Collies were all companions volunteered by their human owners. People should become looser, more stable and more comfortable with increasing age. We can all think of exceptions, probably in our own families, but overall statistics cannot predict the behavior of outliers like Uncle Rasputin or Aunt Ratchet.

How do you test a dog’s personality? The Border Collies have undergone many different tests. In one case, a stranger enters a room and pats the dog. In another case, owners dress their dogs in human t-shirts. A fifth of dog owners admitted to doing this on their own and not for research purposes. In another test, owners dangle a sausage in front of their dogs that is out of reach for about a minute. Rest assured this was approved by an ethics committee and the dogs were feeding the sausages once the time was up.

The researchers found that dogs change as people get older. You become less active and less anxious. However, one of the study’s authors, Borbalu Turcsan from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, found that some dogs don’t change as much over time. “People with more mature personality profiles change less with age,” she said. “And that’s exactly what we found in dogs.”

The end of aging is of course the same for dogs and humans. Dogs just get there faster. This is one thing that makes the dog “a good model for aging and human mortality,” as Dr. Promislow wrote.

“Dogs age much faster than humans,” explained Dr. Karlsson from the Broad Institute. “So if you want to study aging with the idea of ​​helping people in our lifespan, you want to be able to study something that is aging much faster than we do. It can be learned faster than waiting eighty years for someone to die. “

At this point, of course, it is a great sadness for dog lovers, which is beneficial for science. Dogs die too soon. And it is up to us to testify again and again. It’s never easy One version of the folk song “Old Blue” says, “Old Blue died and he died so hard it shook the floor in my back yard.”

Here, where the consolation of science fails us, poetry can remind us of what dogs are about, which confronts us with the brevity of their lives. In “A dog has died”, Pablo Neruda describes his dog when he was younger on the beach:

Joyful, joyful, joyful,

because only dogs know how to be happy

with just the autonomy

of their shameless spirit.

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