Health In Naked Mole Rats: Reason Behind Cancer Immunity

Health In Naked Mole Rats
By Uploaded by Jedimentat44 on flickr. [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Scientists are rather impressed with the capabilities of naked mole rats. Those small wrinkly skinned sacks seem to have bizarre superpowers. A study conducted on them observes total immunity to cancer and particularly good health in naked mole rats.

There are other things that researchers have uncovered. It seems that, apparently, these animals don’t have an increased chance of death while they are getting older. No mammal is immortal, as with age the risk of death continuously raises. However, naked mole rats, also scientifically known as Heterocelphalus glaber, are an exception to this.

The mortality rate in mammals mostly relies on the Gompertz Makeham law of mortality. This mathematical equation gives information regarding the increase in the mortality rate as the age increases, after reaching adulthood.

For example, in humans, the risk is about two times higher every year once we turn 30. However, this equation is completely different when it comes to health in naked mole rats.

“To me this is the most exciting data I’ve ever gotten,” lead researcher Rochelle Buffenstein of Google’s anti-ageing company Calico told Science. “It goes against everything we know in terms of mammalian biology.”

Buffenstein has been studying these wrinkly rodents for over 30 years, and has been carefully recording every death of an animal which she was in charge of. After studying the health of naked mole rats, of 3,299 animals, she discovered that the risk of mortality was fixed at around one in 10,000 for the remainder of the rats’ lives.

The naked mole rat becomes sexually ready at six months old. According to its size, the expected lifespan of a naked mole in a lab is roughly six years. However, some live to over 30 years old, while still being capable of breeding.

“Our research demonstrates that naked mole rats do not age in the same manner as other mammals, and in fact show little to no signs of ageing, and their risk of death does not increase even at 25 times past their time to reproductive maturity,” Buffenstein said.

“These findings reinforce our belief that naked mole rats are exceptional animals to study to further our understanding of the biological mechanisms of longevity.”

It’s still not clear what is making naked mole rats so healthy and good at living. According to a study from 2009, it was suggested that there are several reasons regarding the good health of naked mole rats – stable proteins and less oxidation than in other mammals. Researchers will need to conduct new studies in older animals in order to see how the trend continues past the age of 30. The study has been published in the journal eLife.