TGen News & Press Releases : 25-year dolphin study reveals factors contributing to aging rates in long-lived mammals
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25-year dolphin study reveals factors contributing to aging rates in long-lived mammals

TGen-Epitracker analysis of U.S. Navy data uncovers groundbreaking science that may help delay aging in dolphins and humans

PHOENIX, Ariz. and SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Aug. 10, 2020 — Epitracker Inc. and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, today announced the results from a groundbreaking, 25-year study of bottlenose dolphins that identified factors differentiating individuals with slow and accelerated aging rates.

The study results, which will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights how biological differences between dolphins, living in the same natural ocean environment and receiving routine medical examinations under the care of the U.S. Navy, may inform new approaches to slow degradative processes associated with aging. 

Epitracker, a life sciences company applying metabolomics and other advanced omic technologies to discover therapeutics targeting aging-associated diseases, and TGen, a non-profit biomedical research institute, leveraged archived health data on 144 dolphins receiving meticulous care throughout their lives. These health data included 44 clinically relevant measurements on 5,889 biological routine samples collected throughout the dolphins’ lifetimes.

“Amazingly, this work all started with the sole intent of continually improving the health and welfare of dolphins,” said Stephanie Venn-Watson, D.V.M., M.P.H., co-founder and CEO of Epitracker Inc. and Seraphina Therapeutics, and the study’s lead author. “The fact that our work is resulting in groundbreaking approaches to delay aging and improve health for both dolphins and humans is a dream come true.”

Navy dolphins, which on average live 50 percent longer than wild dolphins, consumed a controlled and well-maintained fish diet and received ongoing health monitoring and medical care. The routine health data and 44 measures collected over time were analyzed to determine aging rates and establish aging rate-related biomarkers that could also be studied in humans.

TGen and Epitracker discovered four key biomarkers in dolphins associated with an accelerated aging rate. Two of these biomarkers, which already are used in assessing older people, decreased linearly with age: hemoglobin, used to detect anemia; and lymphocytes, used to detect immunosenescence, or weakened immunity. Importantly, while some dolphins had declines in these clinical biomarkers as they aged, including declines leading to clinical anemia and immunosenescence, others had no declines during the same aging timeframe.

While it has long been believed that there are factors influencing why some humans and mammals age faster than others, identifying those factors requires a data set that has been difficult to develop in species closely related to humans — one that is sufficiently large, robust, longitudinal in nature, and collected in a well-controlled population over lifetimes.

“The nature of the Navy dolphins’ shared environment created a perfect setting to generate unparalleled longitudinal health data using easily measured biomarkers that identified slow and accelerated aging in dolphins,” said Nicholas Schork, Ph.D., a TGen Distinguished Professor, Scientific Director for the National Institute on Aging’s Longevity Consortium, and the study’s senior author.

“The results from the analysis of the dolphin population are directly translatable into human biology and will now empower us to identify how aging rates vary in humans and what we might be able do to slow the rates down for all,” said Dr. Schork, who also is Director of TGen’s Quantitative Medicine & Systems Biology Division.

This study is one of three recently published peer-reviewed scientific articles from Epitracker and its spin-out health and wellness company, Seraphina Therapeutics, demonstrating the promise of applying advanced technologies to delay aging in dolphins and humans.

In April 2020, Epitracker reported in PLOS ONE the discovery of shifted dolphin serum metabolomes and improved health resulting from a wild-type fish diet. Specifically, increased dietary intake of pentadecanoic acid (C15:0), a trace dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid present in some fish as well as dairy fat, independently predicted raised hemoglobin and alleviated chronic anemia in dolphins. A subsequent series of controlled laboratory studies demonstrated evidence of repeated, broad health benefits of C15:0 related to healthy aging, including attenuated anemia and fibrosis, lowered inflammation and cholesterol, and improved cellular stability and mitochondrial function. The growing body of evidence supporting C15:0 as the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in 90 years, was published by Epitracker and Seraphina in Scientific Reports, a Nature publication, in May 2020.

“Our discovery of slow and accelerated aging dolphins are now enabling us to compare thousands of small molecules in the archived serum of individuals with and without aging-related conditions and help find which molecules have the greatest promise of protecting the health of aging mammals,” Venn-Watson said.

Seraphina Therapeutics is currently advancing C15:0 as a once daily dietary supplement, food fortifier and nutritional intervention to protect against aging-associated breakdown and as a potential treatment of C15:0 deficiency disorders in humans. Seraphina aims to have C15:0 available for purchase as a supplement during Fall 2020 and as a food ingredient in January 2021.

In addition to developing C15:0 supplements for Navy dolphins, Epitracker is working cooperatively with the U.S. Navy to study additional serum metabolites that may help prevent and treat chronic aging-associated conditions present in both dolphins and humans, including pulmonary, hepatic, and neurogenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information on Epitracker Inc. and the research discoveries made, please read the full published paper — 25-Year Longitudinal Dolphin Cohort Supports that Long-Lived Individuals in Same Environment Exhibit Variation in Aging Rates — in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or visit www.epitracker.com. To learn more about Seraphina Therapeutics, its science-based approach to advancing global health or the discovery of C15:0, please visit www.seraphinatherapeutics.com.

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About TGen, an affiliate of City of Hope
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life-changing results. TGen is affiliated with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. This precision medicine affiliation enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases through cutting-edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research toward patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and complex rare diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org. Follow TGen on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter @TGen. 

Media Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
[email protected]

About Epitracker Inc.
Epitracker Inc. is a life sciences company focusing on metabolomics in long-lived mammals to discover small molecules that may help to detect, prevent and treat chronic diseases in both humans and animals. By dedicating decades to improving U.S. Navy and wild dolphin health, Epitracker has gained critical insight into the pathophysiology of aging and chronic diseases through shared traits found in dolphins and humans. The company’s discoveries enable the creation of health products and therapies designed to extend wellness, delay aging, and treat a broad range of disease in both animals and humans. For more information, visit www.epitracker.com.  

About Seraphina Therapeutics Inc.
Seraphina Therapeutics Inc. is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics. Through rigorous breakthrough science, the company will develop fatty acid supplements, food fortifiers and nutritional interventions to strengthen cells, keep mitochondria working and advance cellular homeostasis to counter age-related breakdown. With its team of industry-leading scientists, Seraphina Therapeutics challenges long held approaches to nutrition, enabling the creation of novel health products designed to support quality of life. The company is a spinout of Epitracker Inc. and headquartered in San Diego. For more information, please visit www.seraphinatherapeutics.com.

About the U.S. Navy Dolphin Program
For more than 60 years, the U.S. Navy has cared for and closely monitored the health and welfare of a sustained population of approximately 100 bottlenose dolphins. Due to their access to ongoing healthcare, a reliable and well monitored daily diet, and protection from predators and other native stressors, Navy dolphins now live more than 50 percent longer than wild dolphins and are providing important insights into healthy aging.

Media Contact
Heath Meyer
858-768-1527
[email protected] 


Media Contact



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