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HomeUncategorizedNaked Mole Rat’s Longevity Gene Gives Mice a Longer Life

Naked Mole Rat’s Longevity Gene Gives Mice a Longer Life

The naked mole rat is arguably the strangest looking mammal on the planet. However, beneath its wrinkly exterior may lie secrets that could extend human lifespan. In a new study, published in the journal Nature, researchers reported that they successfully transferred a naked mole rat gene into mice, leading to improved health and longevity.

The Life-Extending Gene Discovered in Naked Mole RatsResearchers transferred a longevity gene from naked mole rats into mice, leading to a 4.4% increase in the mice’s lifespan. [University of Rochester]

Native to East Africa, naked mole rats live in underground colonies like ants or termites. They have almost no hair and very little subcutaneous fat but are incredibly long-lived for their size, surviving up to 30 years. This is around 10 times longer than similar-sized mice. Naked mole rats also resist age-related diseases like cancer and neurodegeneration.

For over a decade, scientists Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov at the University of Rochester have been probing the naked mole rat for clues to its super longevity. Previous studies show high molecular weight hyaluronic acid (HMW-HA) is elevated in naked mole rats compared to other mammals. The researchers believe this unique molecule holds the key.

To test whether HMW-HA could extend lifespan in other mammals, the researchers engineered mice to produce the naked mole rat version of the hyaluronan synthase 2 gene. This gene codes for a protein that generates HMW-HA.

The genetically modified mice showed increased HMW-HA levels and lived 4.4% longer on average versus regular mice. They also had lower cancer rates, reduced age-related inflammation, and healthier guts.

According to Dr. Gorbunova, HMW-HA conferred these benefits by directly regulating the immune system, protecting cells from oxidative damage, and improving gut barrier function. This demonstrates that the naked mole rat’s longevity adaptations can be successfully transferred to another species.

The big question is whether HMW-HA could be used to increase longevity in humans as well. The Rochester team is focused on finding ways to boost HMW-HA levels or slow its degradation in people.

“We hope that our findings will provide the first, but not the last, example of how longevity adaptations from a long-lived species can be adapted to benefit human longevity and health,” says Dr. Seluanov.

The naked mole rat has much to teach us about healthy aging. With further research, this humble rodent’s longevity secrets may unlock new ways to extend human lifespans.

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