NOVEMBER 23, 2019
- A new study proposes that aging may impact the genome of dogs and humans in similar ways.
- Researchers analyzed the genomes of 104 labrador retrievers between the ages of 4 weeks and 16 years old.
- Break out your graphing calculator: The team also came up with a new formula to calculate a dog’s age.
Scientists have gained new insight into the epigenetic clock that controls how dogs age and have devised a new formula to pinpoint exactly how old that good boy or girl in your life is.
The researchers studied DNA methylation, or chemical modifications to certain DNA segments, within the genomes of 104 labrador retrievers, all ranging between 4 weeks and 16 years of age. It turns out we age in similar ways, the team reports in a paper published to the preprint server bioRxiv.
In humans, DNA methylation—the addition of organic compounds called methyl groups to specific segments of our DNA—can reveal the impact of disease, lifestyle, and genetics on our DNA. Using this information, scientists have been able to create an epigenetic clock, of sorts, to better understand how we age. Scientists have learned that other animals like mice and wolves experience DNA methylation. Now, they’re using this research to understand the process of aging in man’s best friend.
Ultimately, certain regions of both the labrador and human genome—areas with high rates of mutation—show similar rates of methylation. A dog’s life stages largely sync up with our own; puppies and babies start teething at roughly equivalent ages, for example.
Whether you have a pitbull, pug, or Pembroke Welsh corgi, your pup will reach puberty at around 10 months and will likely die before turning 20. (Yes, it pains us to write that, too.) Scientists have long known that dogs are susceptible to many of the same age-related diseases that we are, such as cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.
The researchers also devised a new way to calculate a dog’s age, but it’s arguably more complicated than simply multiplying by seven. To calculate the age, you’ll have to multiply the natural logarithm of your pup’s age by 16 and then add 31. Here’s the equation:
16 x ln(your dog’s age in human years) + 31
Super simple, right? (The researchers also a included a handy conversion tool here.) If you’re wondering why your 2-year-old dog clocks in at around 40 human years, it’s because his epigenetic clock ticks a bit faster than yours, but slows down as he ages.
The team hopes to expand its research to include additional dog species, and there are plenty of other research teams that are diving into a dog’s genome to unlock even more secrets.
Courtesy/Source: Popular Mechanics