Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Download: extending dogs’ lives, and sex and the immune system

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Matt Kaeberlein is what you might call a dog person. He has grown up with dogs and describes his German shepherd, Dobby, as “really special.” But Dobby is 14 years old—around 98 in dog years. “I’m very much seeing the aging process in him,” says Kaeberlein, who studies aging at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Kaeberlein is co-director of the Dog Aging Project, an ambitious research effort to track the aging process of tens of thousands of companion dogs across the US. He is one of a handful of scientists on a mission to improve, delay, and possibly reverse that process to help them live longer, healthier lives.

But dogs are just the beginning. Because they’re a great model for humans, anti-aging or lifespan-extending drugs that work for dogs could eventually benefit people, too. In the meantime, attempts to prolong the life of pet dogs can help people get onboard with the idea of life extension in humans. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

The quest to show that biological sex matters in the immune system

For years, microbiologist Sabra Klein has painstakingly made the case that sex—defined by biological attributes such as our sex chromosomes, sex hormones, and reproductive tissues—can influence immune responses.

Through research in animal models and humans, Klein and others have shown how and why male and female immune systems respond differently to the flu virus, HIV, and certain cancer therapies, and why most women receive greater protection from vaccines but are also more likely to get severe asthma and autoimmune disorders (something that had been known but not attributed specifically to immune differences.)

In the 1990s, scientists often attributed such differences to gender rather than sex—to norms, roles, relationships, behaviors, and other sociocultural factors as opposed to biological differences in the immune system. Klein has helped spearhead a shift in immunology, a field that long thought sex differences didn’t matter—and she’s set her sights on pushing the field of sex differences even futher. Read the full story.

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