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Scientists identify genes that may signal long life in naked mole-rats
Date:11/3/2011

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have identified high levels of a number of genes in the naked mole-rat that may suggest why they live longer than other rodents and demonstrate resistance to age-related diseases.

The Liverpool team has recently generated the first whole-genome sequencing data of the naked mole-rat - a rodent that lives for more than 30 years and is resistant to cancer - to understand its longevity and resistance to disease. Scientists, in collaboration with Harvard University, have now compared the levels of its genes with genes in wild mice to investigate what makes naked mole-rats different to other rodents.

They found that genes associated with mitochondria, that provide energy to cells, and genes that affect respiration and the decisions cells make, are expressed at unusually high levels in the naked mole-rat compared to the same genes in wild mice. In animals and humans these genes are thought to play a role in influencing and adapting to cell damage, which is thought to be one of the significant causes of ageing.

Naked mole-rats, however, also have increased levels of oxidative stress, which is an imbalance in reactive molecules containing oxygen. This can lead to mutations in the cells and the growth of cancerous tumours. To date, cancer has not been detected in the naked mole-rat, but these new findings suggest that the rodent has mechanisms of regulating gene responses to limit the potential negative impact of oxidative stress on cells. The research will help scientists focus on particular areas of the genome to further understanding into how the body ages.

Dr Joao Pedro Magalhaes, from the University's Institute of Integrative Biology, said: "The naked mole-rat is native to the deserts of East Africa and has unique physical traits that allow it to survive in harsh environments for many years. It has a lack of pain sensation in its skin and has a low metabolic rate that allows it to
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Contact: Samantha Martin
samantha.martin@liv.ac.uk
44-151-794-2248
University of Liverpool
Source:Eurekalert

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