WEDNESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists announced
Wednesday that they have succeeded in sequencing the full genome of
the naked mole rat, an exceptionally long-lived and
While that might not sound like headline news, scientists say
the findings could provide insights into human aging and risks for
"If we can understand the genetic adaptations, we may be able to find treatments which can change the human into a more long-lived species," said Vadim N. Gladyshev, senior author of the study published online Oct. 12 in the journal Nature.
Another expert, Dr. Greg Enders, associate professor of medicine
at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, expressed enthusiasm.
"This paper is an interesting piece of work [and may provide]
useful hypotheses into how they can have such longevity and not
However, these ideas are still "all hypothetical in the future
and very controversial," added Gladyshev, director of the Center
for Redox Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard
Medical School in Boston.
On average, the naked (meaning hairless) mole rat lives more
than 30 years, or almost 10 times as long as a typical mouse. Not
only are they healthier for a longer period of time than other
rodents, they live underground in the dark, are cold-blooded and
can reproduce until they die. They do have poor vision,
"They have many unusual traits, and all of them are important in some way," said Gladyshev. "They are long-lived, live in low-oxygen conditions, are resistant to cancer, [and] don't maintain a stable body temperature."
In analyzing the genome of this remarkable mammal, the
researchers noted some similarities with other mammals. The number
of genes is about the same in naked mole rats (22,561), humans
(22,389), mice (23,317) and rats (22,841).
Many of the naked mole rat genes are also located in the same
place on the chromosome as human, mice and rat genes, the research
But in the naked mole rat, unlike in humans, there were few
differences in how the genes were expressed at age 4 and at age
There were eight cancer-related genes, one of which was the
protein P16. "This is one of the major human tumor suppressor
proteins, and it's clear that the naked mole rat has that protein
and upregulates it more rapidly in certain situations that probably
prevent cancer formation," Enders said.
The naked mole rat also produces less insulin than humans, has
adapted its circulatory system and metabolism to deal with a
low-oxygen environment and has few of the receptors that detect
bitter tastes. These adaptations may eventually yield clues about
living in extreme conditions, the researchers noted.
This research is just a start, Gladyshev said. "We and others
probably will now carry out experimental studies on some of these
findings to really understand in detail what this data means."
Learn more about human genes at the
Human Genome Project.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.