Research Scientist
Updated 03/25/2016

Silvan Urfer

Silvan Urfer is a veterinarian with a background in population genetics and survival analysis. He is currently working on the Dog Aging Project for the Kaeberlein and Promislow Labs in the UW Department of Pathology.

After earning his veterinary degree from the University of Bern in his native Switzerland in 2004, Dr. Urfer wrote his doctoral thesis at the Institute of Veterinary Genetics, also in Bern, and received his doctorate in 2007. He then joined the Ostrander Lab at NIH/NHGRI in Bethesda, Maryland on a postdoc grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation, where he worked on inbreeding effects in a large dog population. Following this, Dr. Urfer joined the Wolf Lab at UW Medicine Pathology as a postdoc in 2008, where he mostly focused on cataract as a biomarker of aging in dogs of various sizes, as well as age-related cataracts in various species. Following Norm Wolf's retirement at the end of 2011, he worked on analyzing large veterinary databases in cooperation with the private sector, investigating preventive veterinary interventions that could have beneficial effects on overall life expectancy in dogs.

In 2016, Dr. Urfer came back to the UW as a Senior Fellow to work on the Dog Aging Project. He is currently investigating predictors of longevity and survival in veterinary clinical dog databases as well as the effects of rapamycin in privately owned dogs. In his spare time, he also investigates the effects of aging on yeast-fermented Vitis vinifera lysates using organoleptic bioassays.

Research Interests

Aging and age-related diseases, biomarkers of aging and their use as predictors of life span, evaluating interventions to improve lifespan and healthspan.

Developing the privately owned domestic dog as a model within the One Health framework.


Dog Aging Project


med. vet. (MVM) -- University of Bern, Switzerland

Doctorate (Dr. med. vet.) on population genetics of and lifespan in a large dog population -- University of Bern, Switzerland



Urfer, SR., Greer, K. and Wolf, NS. (2010) “Canine Age-Related Cataract: A Biomarker for Lifespan and its Relation to Body Size”; AGE (Dordr), DOI 10.1007/s11357-010-9158-4

Pendergrass, W., Zitnik, G, Urfer, SR and Wolf, NS. (2011): “Age-related retention of fiber cell nuclei and nuclear fragments in the lens cortices of multiple species.” In: Molecular Vision 2011, 17:2672-2684

Urfer, SR. (2009) “Inbreeding and Fertility in Irish Wolfhounds in Sweden: 1976 to 2007”; Acta Vet Scand 51:21

Urfer, SR. (2008) “Right Censored Data (‘Cohort Bias’) in Veterinary Life Span Studies”; Vet Rec 163(15):457-8

Urfer, SR., Gaillard, C. and Steiger, A. (2007) “Lifespan and Disease Predispositions in the Irish Wolfhound: A Review”; Vet Q 29(3):102-111

Conference Presentations and Abstracts

Urfer, SR., Greer, K. and Wolf, NS. (2011) “The curious case of canine cataract: new insights into aging in dogs”; J Vet Behav 6(1):99.

Urfer, SR. (2011) “Beyond inbreeding depression? A case study of the Irish Wolfhound”; J Vet Behav 6(1):99

Urfer, SR. (2012): “Teaching Dead Dogs New Tricks: Right Censored Data in Canine Life Span Studies”. In: Proceedings of the 3rd Canine Science Forum, Barcelona 2012, Ref: CSF 14

Griffin, G. and Urfer, SR (2012): “Inherited Osteosarcoma in a Family of Irish Wolfhounds.” In: Proceedings of the 3rdCanine Science Forum, Barcelona 2012, Ref: CSF 12

Urfer SR. (2014): “Effect of purebred status, body size, gonadectomy, and dental cleaning on lifespan in pet dogs seen in private veterinary practice“. In: Proceedings of the 4thCanine Science Forum, Lincoln (UK) 2014


Urfer, SR, Greer K. and Wolf NS (2011) “Cataracts in Large and Small Dogs: A Biomarker for Life Span.” Book chapter. In: Dogs: Biology, Behavior and Health Disorders, Nova Biomedical, ISBN 978-1612096537

Urfer, SR (2011) “How the past affects the present: a genetic history of the Irish Wolfhound.” Book chapter. In: Dogs: Biology, Behavior and Health Disorders, Nova Biomedical, ISBN 978-1612096537

Urfer, SR. (2009) “Lifespan and Causes of Death in Irish Wolfhounds: Medical, Genetical and Ethical Aspects”. SVH Publishing, ISBN 978-3838105857