Telomeres

Naked mole rats offer new insights into immortality

You might be thinking right now, what is that? And that was my first reaction when I first saw a naked mole rat. Even though it may not be nice looking (I had some lab partners that thought it was cuteā€¦) it is an extremely interesting animal.

These creatures they rarely get cancer and they can survive up to 18 minutes without oxygen. And furthermore, they DO NOT AGE. For an animal with a similar physiology, such as common rats, the life expectancy is around 6 years. On the other side, naked mole rats they live past 30, with no apparent signs of aging.

The only reason why scientists know that naked mole rats can live longer past 30 is because a scientist in Calico, Google owned business that is working on aging, has a specimen of over 35 years. I guess at this point is part of the family now. Perhaps the secret for such longevity may reside in a very active DNA repair mechanism, and a high level of chaperones, which do not allow proteins to misfold.

As a scientist working on a telomere lab, I think this naked mole rat could be a really exiting model organism to study aging. As I talked in previous blogs, shorter telomeres are related to senescence, so what do telomeres look like on naked mole rats? How is telomere biology different from a mouse to a naked mole rat? All of these answers, perhaps provided by Calico within the following years, will give new insights into aging.

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