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It’s Out of The Bag! Cats Might Soon Have 18 Lives

A Japanese scientist might have found a way to keep our feline companions living for up to 30 years and could reach global markets by 2025.

Sleeping Cat (left) Japanese Vaccines (right)
A cat laying down (left); vaccine vials (right). Credit: Shutterstock/antibydni | Shutterstock/PalSand

Toru Miyazaki, a former professor and immunology researcher at the University of Tokyo made a breakthrough discovery on a potential treatment for kidney disease in 1999. Now, he is steps away from developing a vaccine to double a cat‘s lifespan.

Miyazaki discovered Apoptosis Inhibitor of Macrophage, or AIM for short, in Switzerland — a protein that is present in many animals’ blood. AIM claims to protect the kidneys by disposing dead cells and other waste from the body. Miyazaki describes AIM as a medium that helps unclog a pipe of dead cells.

To break down AIM’s function further, let’s take a look at its name. Apoptosis is a Greek term (apo plus ptosis) meaning “falling off,” similar from a ripe fruit falling from a tree. In this case, the term means cell death.

AIM Japanese Diagram
AIM Japanese Diagram. Credit: TBS News

Inhibitor means “a substance that prevents an activity of a different substance,” such as an enzyme, or reactant. Lastly, macrophage is a type of white blood cell that “eats” and processes foreign materials in the body. Put together, AIM stops the death of macrophages.

Upon Miyazaki’s return to the University of Tokyo in 2006, he focused exclusively on illnesses with a focus on AIM. He published many papers detailing AIM’s response to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and liver cancer. In 2016, he expanded his research involving cats.

Curiosity Doesn’t Kill the Cat

The breakthrough — published in Nature Medicine, explains how most cats get kidney disease at 5-years-old, and die by 15. Cats are also susceptible to heartworms, however, kidney disease is the leading cause of death, with 30% of cases being by age 10. Currently, there is no effective treatment.

Throughout his research, he found that the composition of amino acids in cats’ AIM is different than in humans. AIM in dogs and mice works well, however, in cats, the amino acids in AIM is genetically proven to not function against the disease.

By 2017, Miyazaki started the company, L’Aimia, hoping to use AIM as a therapeutic treatment for cats. In a profile with the University of Tokyo, Miyazaki says the expectations of cat owners are his motivation:

I believe that perhaps my friend is one of the reasons why I was destined to save cats … I have witnessed many people passing away [from] incurable illnesses, so I feel strongly about [using] AIM to treat people.

Toru Miyazaki

Fast-forward to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which halted Miyazaki’s research. By this point, he worked on developing an AIM-based drug for cats, but needed funding. A media report on Miyazaki’s predicament elicited an abundance of donations from cat owners and lovers across the nation.

As a result, the University of Tokyo gathered around $1.76 million, furthering Miyazaki’s endeavors in finding a treatment. This encouraged him to go independent, leaving the university in 2022 and starting a non-profit organization, The Institute for AIM Medicine (IAM).

AIM-ing to Increase Cats’ Lifespan

Miyazaki's Japanese AIM kibble
Japanese AIM kibble. Credit: Mitsuike Animal Hospital.

As of September 2023, Miyazaki has developed sold AIM30 cat kibble to help cats’ kidney disease, lengthening their lifespan. He has also submitted a petition for his AIM vaccine to be sold globally and at an affordable price.

The AIM vaccine will help increase the AIM levels in cats, bypassing the amino acids and prevent kidney disease from developing, or continuing. Miyazaki strives for all pet owners and cat lovers to provide the best care for their tiny friends. He wants people to not have to choose between medication or food to save cats from a very common, and chronic, disease.

Clinical trials on the AIM vaccine are still undergoing, however, one thing is for certain: the AIM therapy is not a cure. The therapy only enables cats and young kittens from slowing down the development of kidney disease. This is what might make their lifespan longer.

If all trials pass, cat lovers around the world can start to see launches of the vaccine by early 2025. Read more on Miyazaki’s research with his book, The Day When Cats Can Live to 30 (Jiji Press) here. Pet owner should also consult with a veterinarian before buying AIM30 kibble or receive the vaccine.

In the meantime, pet owners and cat lovers can reduce the chances of kidney disease by feeding the furry felines a fresh, moisture-rich diet with natural supplements, if needed.

Would you try this vaccine on your cat?

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