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The naked mole-rat's secret to staying cancer free
Date:7/31/2013

Mice and rats have long since been a standard animal model for cancer research, mainly due to their short lifespan of four years on average and high incidence of cancer. Naked mole rats however, are a mystery among mammals. This social tiny African subterranean rodent has a maximum lifespan exceeding 30 years and most surprisingly, is cancer-resistant. The fact that so far, not a single incident of cancer has been detected makes the naked mole rat a fitting model for finding novel ways to fight cancer.

Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Rochester in New York and the University of Haifa found the naked mole rat's unique mechanism to staying cancer free- a super sugar called high-molecular-mass Hyaluronan (HMM-HA). They discovered that when secreted from the naked mole rat's cells, HMM-HA prevents cells from overcrowding and forming tumors. "Contact inhibition, a powerful anticancer mechanism, discovered by the Rochester team, arresting cell growth when cells come into contact with each other, is lost in cancer cells", explains Prof. Eviatar Nevo, from the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa, "The experiments showed that when HMM-HA was removed from naked mole rat cells, they became susceptible to tumors and lost their contact inhibition".

HMM-HA is a form of Hyaluronan- a long sugar polymer, naturally present as a lubricant in the extracellular matrix of the human body. It is commonly used in the treatment of arthritis or in anti-wrinkle skin care products. According to the current results, the naked mole rat cells secrete extremely high-molecular mass HA, which is over five times larger than human or mouse HA. This high-molecular-mass HA accumulates abundantly in naked mole rat tissues, owing to a more robust synthesis by a protein called HAS2 and a decreased activity of HA-degrading enzymes. When researchers compared the Has2 gene between the naked mole rat and other mammals, they discovered that two unique amino
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Contact: Polina Petruhin
ppetruh1@univ.haifa.ac.il
972-482-88722
University of Haifa
Source:Eurekalert

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