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Scientists Study Cancer-Resistant Rat For Clues on Cancer Cure

Naked mole rat (file photo)

Naked mole rat (file photo)

Scientists at Britain’s University of Liverpool are hoping to learn more about age-related illness and cancer in humans by studying the genes of a small, burrow-dwelling rodent called a naked mole-rat that somehow is resistant to cancer.

Recent studies suggest naked mole-rat cells have anti-tumor capabilities not found in the cells of other rodents or humans. To date, no cancer has ever been detected in a naked mole-rat, which can live for more than 30 years. That lifespan is seven to eight times longer than an average mouse, which is similar in size to the naked mole-rat, yet lives for only about four years.

The University of Liverpool scientists recently published the first draft of the complete genome of the naked mole-rat, and say their research revealed the small mammal's DNA shares similarities with human DNA.

They say they want to use the new findings to gain a better understanding of the naked mole-rat's longevity, and its resistance to chronic diseases associated with aging, particularly cancer.

The naked mole-rat is native to the deserts of East Africa. It has no sensation of pain in its skin, and a low metabolic rate allows the tiny rodent species to thrive underground despite a limited oxygen supply.