Naked Mole Rat Genome May Hold the Key to Defeating Cancer, Living Longer

British scientists have sequenced the naked mole rat's genome in hopes of finding the genetic hallmarks of cancer and longer life.

1st Published July 6, 2011. The naked mole rat won’t be winning the award for “best looking animal” any time soon, but this ugly little rodent is capable of some amazing things. British researchers have begun sequencing the naked mole rat’s genomes and posting them online for biologists and geneticists to study in hopes of unraveling its secrets.

Native to the deserts of South Africa, naked mole rats live deep underground. They burrow through sand and dirt using their abnormally long teeth and rarely leave their underground homes. These rodents can live up to 30-years old in their harsh underground environments where oxygen is scarce; the common rat lives to about 4-years old and dwells in lesser environments.

One of the most intriguing features of the naked mole rat is its resistance to many different diseases, even cancer. Throughout decades of study devoted to the creatures, there has not been a single cancer-related death among naked mole rats. For scientists, this reason is more than enough incentive to examine the rodent’s genome to better understand the mechanisms of cancer resistance.

Along with their powerful defense against cancer, studies have also noted that these rodents feel no pain in their skin; different types of acid do not seem to burn or harm them in any way, and they are surprisingly resistant to strokes thanks to a specially structured metabolism. Naked mole rats are incredible creatures and this genome blueprint is might be the key to making significant advances in medical science.

Around the Web

Pain-Proof, Cancer-Proof Naked Mole Rat Gets Its Genome Sequenced as Researchers Search for Cure to Everything [Popular Science]

Naked mole rat's genome 'blueprint' revealed [BBC]