Legendary synthetic biologist from Harvard Medical School is working on a start-up called Rejuvenate Bio that wants make dogs younger, and someday, maybe apply the same technology to humans.
In a podcast interview, Church revealed that the company has already experimented on mice, and are testing on dogs now. “Dogs are a market in and of themselves,” Church said at a event last week, according to the . “It’s not just a big organism close to humans. It’s something people will pay for, and the FDA process is much faster. We’ll do dog trials, and that’ll be a product, and that’ll pay for scaling up in human trials.”
Previously, age-reversing technology has been tested on worms and flies, whose lifespans can double with a few simple tweaks to their genes. In mammals like mice, blood transfusions from younger mice can restore biomarkers to youthful levels in older mice.
Rejuvenate wants to start by extending the lifespans of Cocker spaniels and Doberman pinschers, who are prone to fatal heart diseases like ailment mitral valve disease, which kills about half of Cavalier King Charles spaniels by age 10. Though Rejuvenate hasn't revealed what exactly its dog therapy involves, it might be similar to a form of gene therapy used to stop heart damage in mice. Church's Harvard lab has worked through over 60 different therapies to modify two genes that act on four major diseases of aging (heart and kidney disease, obesity, and diabetes). According to Church, the results have been “pretty eye-popping.”
What distinguishes disease prevention from age reversal, according to Church, is whether an old dog's body can heal like a young one. Reversing aging on pets raises lots of ethical questions, of course. What are the ethical boundaries of experimenting on pets? What if a longer life span means other, negative health tradeoffs, or simply unexpected side effects and experiments gone wrong? And what if pets end up outliving their owners? For now, though, Rejuvenate Bio has to prove that it can actually accomplish its lofty (and potentially life-changing) goals.