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Secrets to the Naked Mole-Rat’s Long Life, Slowing the “Master Biological Clock”

Friday, March 10, 2017 16:25
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Why does the naked mole-rat live so long?  Scientists have been seeking its secret to a long healthy life.

The naked mole-rat  has a highly unusual set of physical traits that enable it to thrive in an otherwise harsh underground environment; it is the only mammalian thermoconformer.  The mole rat lacks pain sensitivity in its skin, and has very low metabolic and respiratory rates. While formerly considered to belong to the same family as other African mole-rats, the Bathyergidae, more recent investigation places the naked mole-rat in a separate family, Heterocephalidae.

The naked mole-rat is an extraordinarily long-lived  rodent of its size  up to 31 years and holds the record for the longest living rodent. Naked mole-rats are highly resistant to cancer and maintain healthy vascular function longer in their lifespan than shorter-living rats.
A new paper was recently published in one of the most prominent scientific journals: Physiological Reviews. A group of Russian and German biologists and mathematicians that authored the publication was led by profs. Victor Sadovnichii, Vladimir Skulachev (Moscow State University) and prof. Thomas Hildebrandt (Leibniz Institute, Berlin). 
The work provides strong arguments in support of new break-through hypothesis explaining the phenomenon of exceptional longevity of naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber, an African rodent). According to the hypothesis these animals managed to slow down the process of individual development and it resulted in a dramatic increase of the period of youth and decelerated aging.

A similar process has begun in humans as well. Analysis of data on human longevity and reproduction period indicates that humans have already slowed down the pace of our “Master Biological Clock” and this deceleration progresses along human history. It results in increased lifespan and prolongation of youth.

Naked mole rat
Naked Molerat 001.jpg
Credit: Ltshears /Wikimedia Commons

Such regulation of the rate of aging means that the aging process (in both naked mole-rats and humans) is genetically programmed and cannot be explained by simple accumulation of random damage with age. This is a very important statement because modern science is already capable of switching off some biological programs, for example a program of cell suicide – apoptosis. Prof. Vladimir Skulachev’s research group is now trying to apply the same method to retard the program of aging using specially designed compounds: mitochondrially-targeted antioxidants.

Victor Sadovnichii, rector of Moscow State University says, ”This work is a great example of cooperation of different departments of our university within our “Noah’s Ark” project supported by Russian Scientific Foundation. The study was performed jointly by Belozersky institute of MSU, and by departments of Biology and Mathematics. In fact aging studies are based on different statistical datasets. Traditionally it is one of the most “mathematics-oriented” areas of biology. In this particular case statistical analysis demonstrated a very important fact: human aging is already decelerating.”

Nake mole rat in a zoo
Credit: Roman Klementschitz, /Wikimedia Commons

Vladimir Skulachev, head of Belozersky institute of Moscow State University, says, ”I think our work proves that the biological evolution of two highly social species of mammals (humans and naked mole-rats) resulted in deceleration of the aging program and prolongation of youth. So the aging is indeed a program and it was already slowed down by natural selection. But we, humans, no longer use the extremely slow method of natural evolution. We use technical and scientific progress to achieve our goals. I suppose it is exactly the time when we must apply this method against aging.”

Contacts and sources:
Maxim Skulachev
Lomonosov Moscow State University,



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