Naked mole rats live nine times longer than other, similarly sized rodents. They are also near immune to cancer. Researchers are mining the biochemistry of this species in search of mechanisms that might inform the development of ways to treat cancer or influence the processes of degenerative aging. Cancer is a consequence of mutation in nuclear DNA, and the consensus of the majority of the research community is that this random mutational damage, stem and progenitor cells, is a meaningful cause of aging. Thus should we expect naked mole rats to have highly effective DNA repair in comparison to short-lived rodents? It seems to be the case that they do.
Aging and cancer are accompanied by the accumulation of mutations in the genome, genomic instability and dysregulation of transcription patterns. DNA repair systems have evolved to counteract genomic instability. However, whether long-lived and cancer-resistant animal species have more efficient DNA repair is unclear. The naked mole rat (NMR), Heterocephalus glaber, is the longest-lived rodent with the maximum lifespan of 32 years, which is almost ten times longer than a house mouse. Furthermore, NMRs are resistant to cancer with spontaneous tumors being extremely rare.
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