Dog Dementia Trial Offers Hope for Humans

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Dog Dementia Trial Offers Hope

Older dogs suffer from dementia similar to the way that people suffer from the condition, with such symptoms as memory loss, disorientation and agitation being common to both. That is why there is a great deal of attention being paid to the first-of-its-kind trial that is targeting the development of a treatment or cure for dog dementia. If the trial is successful, it could have eventual ramifications for helping human beings who suffer from dementia as well.

This groundbreaking trial is taking place in Australia, where researchers at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute are preparing to grow a million skin cells in the vicinity of the dog’s belly and then transplant them into the hippocampus, the part of the brain where memories are processed. Researchers reported on this upcoming trial—the first of its kind in the world—during the recent Alzheimer’s Australia national conference, held in the city of Hobart.


Common in Older Dogs

University researchers report that dementia symptoms present themselves in approximately 12 percent of dogs that are 10 years old or older. This trial involving dogs follows up on the success that the Brain and Mind Research Institute has previously had in rats who have been identified as having memory loss. Dogs in the trial have been volunteered by their owners.


A Loss of Bonding

The Herald Sun News in Australia quotes Associate Professor Michael Valenzuela from the University of Sydney, who observed that dementia is more noticeable in dogs than it is in other animals, since the bonding that normally occurs between dogs and their owners is so much more noticeable than it is with other animals. Dogs with dementia are less likely to display that bond, possibly even losing the ability to recognize their owners or no longer acting excited when their owners walk in the door. The dogs are more likely just to stare at a wall and/or are less likely to figure out how to get around objects, Professor Valenzuela reported.


Implications for People

The first surgeries will begin taking place in June, and then the dogs will be monitored over time to see if there are improvements in cognitive skills. This is a long-term trial that should take several years before actual conclusions can be drawn. However, with promising results, the next step would be to proceed with human clinical trials.

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