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article imageBlind mole rats are resistant to many cancers

By Tim Sandle     Sep 9, 2013 in Science
A new study of blind mole rats demonstrates that the animals are incredibly cancer-resistant. Research indicates that adaptations that help the rodents survive in low-oxygen environments play a key role in their longevity and cancer resistance.
Blind mole-rats (of the genus Spalax) live underground in low-oxygen environments, are long-lived. The rats are found in Eastern Africa. Unlike rats and mice, which typically live for less than four years, the blind mole rat lives for around twenty years. One reason for the longevity of the mole rat is that they appear to be resistant to most cancers, making them attractive for scientific study.
Mole rats are blind because their very small eyes are completely covered by a layer of skin. They dig deep into the ground using their very strong and sharp front teeth.
Unlike other rodents, blind mole-rats are highly resistant to carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals). Research suggests that this is due to the conditions in which the mole rat lives. Mole rats live in low-oxygen (or ‘hypoxic’) environments. Evidence suggests that particular genes that respond to hypoxia, and found in the mole rat, play a role in aging and in suppressing or promoting cancer, according to Wired.
Studies, in which different cancers were transferred to mice, rats and mole rats, showed a strong resistance within the mole rat. Effectively, in the mole rat, a protein switch caused cancer cells to kill themselves beyond a dozen or so multiplications, stopping any tumors forming. The researchers subsequently found that genes that regulate DNA repair, the cell cycle and programmed cell death are differentially regulated in the mole rat to other rodents.
The researchers state that they a new model animal to study mechanisms of disease, and possibly discover new therapeutic agents. The Digital Journal reported in an earlier story that scientists will attempt to use genes from the mole rat to crate a 'cancer free' mouse
The research was conducted at the University of Haifa, in Israel, and has been reported in the journal Biomed Central: Biology. The paper is titled “Pronounced cancer resistance in a subterranean rodent, the blind mole-rat, Spalax: in vivo and in vitro.”
More about blind mole rat, Cancers, Rats, Rodents, Immunity
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