Canines represent a valuable model for mammalian aging studies as large animals with short lifespans, allowing longitudinal analyses within a reasonable time frame. Moreover, they develop a spectrum of aging-related diseases resembling that of humans, are exposed to similar environments, and have been reasonably well studied in terms of physiology and genetics. To overcome substantial variables that complicate studies of privately-owned household dogs, we have focused on a more uniform population composed of retired Alaskan sled dogs that shared similar lifestyles, including exposure to natural stresses, and are less prone to breed-specific biases than a pure breed population. To reduce variability even further, we have collected a population of 103 retired (8-11 years-old) sled dogs from multiple North American kennels in a specialized research facility named Vaika. Vaika dogs are maintained under standardized conditions with professional veterinary care and participate in a multidisciplinary program to assess the longitudinal dynamics of aging. The established Vaika infrastructure enables periodic gathering of quantitative data reflecting physical, physiological, immunological, neurological, and cognitive decline, as well as monitoring of aging-associated genetic and epigenetic alterations occurring in somatic cells. In addition, we assess the development of age-related diseases such as arthritis and cancer. In-depth data analysis, including artificial intelligence-based approaches, will build a comprehensive, integrated model of canine aging and potentially identify aging biomarkers that will allow use of this model for future testing of antiaging therapies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was funded by Vaika, Inc. and involved research contracts between Vaika and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Tauber Bioinformatic Research Center, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
© 2021. Fleyshman et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology