Naked Mole Rat May Hold Secret to Long Life: Lives 10 Times Longer Than Others
Unusually high levels of NRG-1 protein may explain naked rat's 30-year life span - see video about naked mole rat below
July 2, 2012 - Compared to the average three year life span of a common rat, the 10 to 30 year life of the naked mole
rat, a subterranean rodent native to East Africa, is impressive. Now, researchers in Israel and the United States are working to uncover the
secret to the small mammal's long - and active - lifespan.
Compared to the human body, the body of this rodent shows little decline due to aging, maintaining high activity, bone
health, reproductive capacity, and cognitive ability throughout its lifetime.
Dr. Dorothee Huchon of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology, Prof. Rochelle Buffenstein of the University of Texas
Health Science Center in San Antonio, and Dr. Yael Edrey of the City College of New York are working together to determine whether the naked
mole rat's unusually high levels of NRG-1, a neuroprotecting protein, is behind the naked mole rat's three-decade life span.
have an 85 percent genetic similarity to humans, it may hold the key to a longer and healthier life for us as well.
This research has been published in the journal Aging Cell.
Genetic analysis comparing the mole rat with several other rodent species revealed that high levels NRG-1 in adults
correlated with a longer life span.
Of all the species the researchers studied, the naked mole rat had the most plentiful and long-lasting
supply of the protein, maintaining a consistent level throughout its lifetime. It is concentrated in the cerebellum, the part of the brain
important to motor control.
Dr. Huchon, an evolutionary biologist, joined the project to lend her expertise on rodent genetics. She studied seven
species of rodents, including guinea pigs, mice, and mole rats, to determine the genetic relationships between them. Her analysis revealed
that the correlation between life span and NRG-1 levels was independent of evolutionary lineage — meaning that it was unique to the naked mole
rat, not a common trait of these rodent species.
Researchers say they may change oxidative stress
theory of aging
This 2002 photo by Cornell
University shows 22-year-old
senior biology major, looking at a naked mole-rat older than she
was at the time. See more below main story.
October 9, 2006 - Those of us most like the naked mole-rat may
outlive our contemporaries as does this friendly furless guy that lives
in the total darkness of underground burrows, yet holds the world
longevity record in the rodent kingdom. Why do they live so long?
Scientist have long studied that question without success, but a new
study says they show much higher levels of oxidative stress and damage
and less robust repair mechanisms than the short-lived mouse, findings
that could change the oxidative stress theory of aging, say the
scientists. Read more...
Prof. Buffenstein and Edrey monitored NRG-1 levels in a population of naked mole rats ranging in age from one day to 26
years. They found that throughout their lives, levels of NRG-1, essential for normal brain functioning, were sustained.
The protein is a neuroprotector, safeguarding the integrity of neurons, which may explain why naked mole rats are able to live so healthfully for such a long
period of time.
Shaping future aging research
This discovery is an important first step towards understanding how aging — and the NRG-1 protein in particular —
functions in these interesting animals, says Dr. Huchon. Future research could reveal how NRG-1 helps to maintain neuron integrity and lead to
discoveries about human aging as well.
The naked mole rat, a burrowing rodent that lives in colonies much like those of ants, has already proven to be an
excellent tool for aging and biomedical research because it is resistant to cancer and maintains protein integrity in the brain despite being
exposed to oxidative damage, Dr. Huchon says.
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