Inside Science: Introducing the Test of Rapamycin in Aging Dogs

September 20, 2023 - 5 minutes read

Posts in our Inside Science series provide you with the ins and outs of doing scientific research. We hope that understanding the process will get you excited about the cutting-edge research being conducted by the Dog Aging Project team.

The Test of Rapamycin in Aging Dogs, also known as TRIAD, is one of the many research studies being conducted by Dog Aging Project scientists. TRIAD is a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial designed to test the effect of a medication called rapamycin on healthy aging.

What is rapamycin? 

Rapamycin is a medication that has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for use in humans to treat some cancers and to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients, but there seem to be other effects on healthy aging. In laboratory animals, low doses of rapamycin seem to positively affect heart health and cognitive function and even extend lifespan.

Our team at the Dog Aging Project is very interested in knowing whether or not rapamycin could have these positive effects in companion dogs.

What is a clinical trial?

A clinical trial is a kind of study that is designed to test the efficacy of a medication or treatment. In a clinical trial, some participants receive the medication being studied. Others receive a placebo (sometimes called a “sugar pill”). A placebo is a pill that doesn’t contain any of the study medication or any other medication at all.

When we say TRIAD is “placebo-controlled,” it means that one group of dogs will be a “control” group. They will receive a placebo, not the study medication. Another group will be the “treatment” group. They will receive rapamycin. This way, we can compare heart health and cognitive function between the control and treatment groups.

When we say TRIAD is “double-blind,” it means that neither the owners of participating dogs nor the scientists evaluating the health of the participating dogs know which ones are taking rapamycin and which are taking placebo. Both are “blind” to the treatment group. This is very important so that no one who is part of the study inadvertently influences our results.

Who can be part of TRIAD? 

To be eligible,  dogs must be in good health, at least 7 years of age,  and weigh at least 44 pounds (20 kg). Dogs must also meet other specific health and behavioral criteria. Dog owners must be willing to bring their dogs to one of our participating clinical sites regularly.

How do you apply to join TRIAD?

If your dog is currently a member of the Dog Aging Project Pack, they have already been evaluated for TRIAD eligibility. If your dog met the requirements described, you will have received an invitation to learn more about the TRIAD clinical trial. If you did not receive a TRIAD invitation, it is because your dog was not eligible at the time.

If you don’t currently have a dog in the Pack, you can complete the TRIAD Rapid Eligibility Assessment and find out if your dog meets the first set of eligibility requirements for the TRIAD trial. If they do, we will give you more information on how to proceed with the eligibility process. If your dog isn’t a good fit for TRIAD, there are still lots of great ways you can get involved in our research by enrolling your dog in other aspects of our project.

When will you know the results of TRIAD?

Each dog in the clinical trial participates for three years, but we will continue to enroll dogs over the course of the next couple of years. That means that we won’t “unblind” the study and begin analysis for at least four more years. As soon as we have results, we will share them with our participants and the broader scientific community.