Researchers Study Cancer-Resistant Naked Mole Rat Genome

By John Lugo

Female naked mole rat. Photo courtesy of Flickr's Jedimentat44

International scientists are re-examining the genome of the naked mole rat, a rodent known for its long life span and resistance to diseases, including neoplasia (the growth of a tumor).

The naked mole rat, mainly found in East Africa, lives on average for more than 30 years, the most of any rodent. Those involved in the study believe that looking closer into the animal’s genetic makeup can reveal genes associated with longer life expectancy and resistance to cancer.

The study involves scientists from The Genome Analysis Centre in the United Kingdom, the University of Liverpool, the Broad Institute, Uppsala University, and Harvard Medical School.

“We predict that studying a species so long-lived (particularly given its small body size) and with such an astonishing resistance to neoplasia, will help elucidate mechanisms and genes conferring longevity and cancer resistance in mammals that may have human applications,” says Joao Pedro De Magalhaes, senior author from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology.

The team will also look into the naked mole rat’s metabolism, development, pain tolerance, and behavior for any factors that may influence its resistance to disease. The group has developed an online tool, The Naked Mole-Rat Genome Resource, to encourage others to invest in further research. The site features the results of their analysis.