This Ugly Rodent May Hold The Secret To Cancer Prevention
The bucktoothed, wrinkled naked mole rat may hold the secret to beating cancer in humans.
After all, the ugly creature can live for up to thirty years (other rodents live about a tenth of that) and they are unusually resistant to cancer.
This resistance could be due to a molecule in the mole rats’ connective tissues, according to a study published in the journal Nature on June 19.
Immune to cancer: Naked mole rats reveal their secret
Apart from their hairless appearance, naked mole rats are known for several distinguishing characteristics: They have an unusually long life span for a rodent, and they seem to be protected from developing cancer. Now, researchers have pinpointed a natural substance found between the rodents’ tissues that may explain their cancer resistance.
Understanding how this substance, known as hyaluronan, protects naked mole rats from developing cancerous tumors could lead to novel cancer-prevention techniques for humans, said study lead author Vera Gorbunova, a professor in the department of biology at the University of Rochester in New York.
In animals, hyaluronan is a component of the extracellular matrix (the noncellular part of tissue) and is known to hold cells and tissues together. The substance also acts as a signal to control the growth of certain cells, said Andrei Seluanov, an assistant professor in the department of biology at the University of Rochester, and co-author of the new study.
Simple molecule prevents mole rats from getting cancer
The same molecules that endow naked mole rats with springy, wrinkled skin also seem to prevent the homely rodents from contracting cancer. Research published on Nature’s website today identifies a sugary cellular secretion that stops the spread of would-be tumours1. Naked mole rats (Heterocephalus glaber), which are more closely related to porcupines than rats, are freaks of nature. The short-sighted creatures spend their lives in subterranean colonies in the service of a single breeding queen — H. glaber is one of only two ‘eusocial’ mammals ever discovered. The rodent doesn’t feel the sting of acids or the burn of chilli peppers, and seems to be the only mammal that is unable to regulate its body temperature.