Scientists find the secrets to help golden retrievers live longer

UC Davis researchers have found a gene associated with longevity in Golden Retrievers, one of the most popular breeds of dogs. Credit: Jessica Hecock, UC Davis.

Golden retrievers are loved by many as friendly and loyal pets.

However, they often face a high risk of cancer, with nearly 65% of them falling victim to the disease.

But what if there’s a way for them to live longer?

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found a promising lead.

Instead of focusing on genes that cause cancer in golden retrievers, the researchers decided to investigate genes that might help them live longer.

Their findings pointed to a particular gene that, when present in certain versions, allowed the dogs to live nearly two years longer. The details of this discovery were shared in the GeroScience journal.

This exciting gene is called HER4. If you’re wondering why this sounds familiar, it’s because HER4 is related to the family of proteins linked to human cancers. A close relative in this family, HER2, is notorious for speeding up the growth of cancer cells in humans.

Robert Rebhun from UC Davis, who worked on the study, explained that dogs often develop similar cancers to humans. This suggests that understanding how HER4 works in dogs could also benefit human health.

Rebhun shared, “If the HER4 gene plays a role in cancer growth or even reduces the risk of cancer in golden retrievers, it could offer insights for future human cancer studies.”

The study involved analyzing DNA from over 300 golden retrievers. To identify the impact of the HER4 gene, the researchers looked at older dogs who lived to 14 years or more and compared their DNA to those who passed away before turning 12.

The results were encouraging: dogs with specific versions of the HER4 gene lived on average up to 13.5 years, while others typically reached only 11.6 years.

Danika Bannasch, another researcher at UC Davis, emphasized how valuable these extra years can be. “An additional two years might not seem like a lot, but for a dog, it’s significant. In human terms, that’s like having an extra 12-14 years!”

But why does this particular gene make such a difference? Bannasch explained that although the discovery is a significant step forward, it’s just one part of a bigger puzzle. It’s fascinating that a gene linked with longer life in dogs is also tied to cancer. “It makes us more eager to understand the entire picture,” she added.

Interestingly, the study revealed that the HER4 gene seemed to have a more significant effect on the lifespan of female golden retrievers compared to males.

This could be because HER4 interacts with hormones like estrogen and may help the body handle harmful toxins from the environment.

As for what comes next, Rebhun mentioned plans to study more golden retrievers to further understand this gene’s effects and to check if these results can be consistently observed.

In simple terms, this study offers hope for golden retriever owners. A gene that helps these beloved dogs live longer has been identified, and while more research is needed, it’s a promising step towards giving our furry friends more golden years.

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