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Could naked mole rats expose the truth about longevity?

by Sasha Crowe Published on 16th Jun 2015

by Sasha Crowe Published on 16th June 2015

Unique structure found in naked mole rat cells, could potentially unlock secrets for longevity.

It has been theorised in previous research, that when cells produce damaged or poorly-built proteins, these impaired proteins will accumulate in the cell and lead to early cell death. Oddly enough, it turns out that these curious creatures have extremely accurately protein translation, which in turn could explain why they live so long. Naked mole rats have been found to exceed up to 30 years, that’s eight times more than other small mammals of comparable size, making them the longest-lived rodent on earth.

Thanks to their groundbreaking research on the animals, Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov may have discovered the reason behind the naked mole rat’s impressive protein production: a unique fragmented ribosomal RNA structure consisting of 3 rRNA pieces instead of the usual 2 that’s found in almost all other multicellular organism. Compared to mice, the naked mole rat makes between 4 to 40 fewer errors during the translation process. It is still not certain, however, how this does indeed affect their lifespan, but it does suggest how important protein translation may be for longevity.
Interestingly, naked mole rats not only live longer from this unique cellular structure, they also show a resistance to tumorigenesis by producing a one-of-a-kind mechanism that seems to prevent them from getting cancer.

Future research plans on attempting to introduce some of the naked mole rat’s special mechanisms into mouse cells, to see whether it would still hold the same effect. If so, that could lead to potential treatments in humans.

Find out more @ smithsonianmag.com