But in the naked mole rat, unlike in humans, there were few differences in how the genes were expressed at age 4 and at age 20.
There were eight cancer-related genes, one of which was the protein P16. "This is one of the major human tumor suppressor proteins, and it's clear that the naked mole rat has that protein and upregulates it more rapidly in certain situations that probably prevent cancer formation," Enders said.
The naked mole rat also produces less insulin than humans, has adapted its circulatory system and metabolism to deal with a low-oxygen environment and has few of the receptors that detect bitter tastes. These adaptations may eventually yield clues about living in extreme conditions, the researchers noted.
This research is just a start, Gladyshev said. "We and others probably will now carry out experimental studies on some of these findings to really understand in detail what this data means."
Learn more about human genes at the Human Genome Project.
SOURCES: Vadim N. Gladyshev, Ph.D., director, Center for Redox Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston; Greg Enders, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia; Oct. 12, 2011, Nature, online
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