The long and strange life of the world’s oldest naked mole rat

The atmosphere saw the dynasties rise and fall. He and his comrades in the colony spent their years cleaning the nest, caring for the queen, and guarding from infiltrators as designated laborers or handicapped soldiers for foreigners. Most of them lead relatively healthy lives. Because they live in deep desert burrows, mole rats have few natural predators.

So what Do Kill a naked mole rat? “They hit each other,” says Martha Delaney, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Illinois. Naked mole rats deeply hate foreigners. They will attack strangers, push and bite each other, and drive out colony members as outcasts.

“They are beautiful and wonderful animals,” says Melissa Holmes very honestly. Holmes is a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Toronto, working with more than 1,000 naked mole rats. The inner workings of the individual eusocial structure of mole rats earn an aggressive reputation. “But for the animals that live in such large groups, they are remarkably stable,” she says.

Holmes owned her colonies 12 years ago. “In some of my colonies, we were never injured,” she says. “This is amazing – animals have lived together for years with this lack of aggression.”

It’s not that naked mole rats never get old or get sick. They do. But their bodies somehow slow those processes down. While the bones of a typical mammal become thinner and brittle over the years, The bones of the mole rat remain Same mineral content and remain solid. People tend to eat more fats as they age. Naked mole rats? No.

“But the most striking system is the cardiovascular system,” Boffenstein says. Human arteries and veins usually harden over time. The stiffer these walls are, the more difficult it is for the heart to pump. Hypertension. death danger Go up. The blood vessels of naked mole rats remain flexible throughout life. “Every measure we looked at in heart function did not change from six months to 24 years,” she says.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in humans. Cancer is second. Around 40 percent Of people in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetime. For naked mole rats, the likelihood is much less than 1 percent. at A 2008 studyBoffenstein reported no carcinomas at all in a group of 800 mole rats. As of 2021, Baffenstein says she has only found five cancers in more than 3,000 autopsies.

“They are aging very well, they are very well adapted,” Delaney says. “It’s kind of a physiological marvel.” Delaney primarily studies naked mole rats in zoos, scans biopsies and tissue slices to find out how they died. It found two cancers in two naked mice (“after evaluating hundreds and hundreds,” she says). None of the cancer was fatal. Naked mole rats develop Kidneys And the Brain lesions With age, however, it rarely turns into a disease.

This unexpected flexibility means that there might be something in their biology that we could pick up in the form of pills – or maybe someday as a gene therapy – for humans. “That’s why I think they’re very popular now, as research models not just for cancer, but for age-related diseases,” Delaney says. But whether it is popular or not, the real payoff is still a long way off.

Scientists want to Sort what needs to be modified in our biology to mimic the longevity of a mole rat. Take the crab. Mole rats are so great at avoiding cancer that researchers believe their cells may be bound to protective molecules that stop mutating cells before they take over. For example, naked mole rat cells contain large amounts of a protein called p53, which is known to suppress tumors. Last year, Boffenstein mentioned that she’s a show 10 times more than it In its connective tissue compared to humans and mice – and it is much more stable.

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