Biomedical research takes a long time… Way too long for patients anxiously waiting for treatments that can keep them alive or spare them agony. So, here is an idea. How about switching research’s typical drawn-out, excruciating timeline to dog years. Dog years?
Folk wisdom has it that, since humans live on average seven times longer than dogs, 1 dog year = 7 human years. Scientists may debate the accuracy of this equivalency, but most people agree that humans live many times longer than their furry friends. And, as it happens, these friends have features that uniquely qualify them to help us speed biomedical research.
Consider this: most dogs will develop cancer, and their tumors are remarkably similar to those of humans. For instance, osteosarcoma is a deadly bone cancer that affects both children and dogs. Dr. Nicola Mason, a Professor of Pathobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, has shown that its genetic profile in both species is indistinguishable. Similar findings have been made for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, brain tumors, melanoma, blood tumors, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer.
Biomedical scientists commonly use mice to study diseases and test drugs. The problem is that mice are not humans—only a gross approximation. “We have cured mice of cancer for decades—and it simply didn’t work in humans.” Or, as Harvard Professor George Whitesides once put it: “Whatever else you may think of me, I am not a large, hairless mouse.”