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Archive - Jul 5, 2011

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Scientists Sequence Genome of Long-Lived, Cancer-Resistant Naked Mole-Rat

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 live underground with limited oxygen supply. For the first time, scientists from the University of Liverpool and The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in Norwich, UK, have sequenced the genome of the naked mole-rat to understand its longevity and resistance to diseases of aging. Researchers will use the genomic information to study the mechanisms thought to protect against the causes of aging, such as DNA repair and genes associated with these processes. To date, cancer has not been detected in the naked mole-rat. Recent studies have suggested that its cells possess anti-tumor capabilities that are not present in other rodents or in humans. Researchers at Liverpool are analyzing the genomic data and making it available to researchers in health sciences, providing information that could be relevant to studies in human aging and cancer. Dr. Joao Pedro Magalhaes, from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Integrative Biology, said: "The naked mole-rat has fascinated scientists for many years, but it wasn't until a few years ago that we discovered that it could live for such a long period of time. It is not much bigger than a mouse, which normally lives up to four years, and yet this particular underground rodent lives for three decades in good health. It is an interesting example of how much we still have to learn about the mechanisms of aging. We aim to use the naked mole-rat genome to understand the level of resistance it has to disease, particularly cancer, as this might give us more clues as to why some animals and humans are more prone to disease than others.