Naked mole rat may hold the secret to long life

July 4, 2012
Naked mole rat (credit: Frans Lanting/Corbis)

Naked mole rat (credit: Frans Lanting/Corbis)

Researchers in Israel and the U.S. are working to uncover the secret to the naked mole rat’s long — and active — lifespan.

High levels of brain-protecting protein are unique in the rodent, say Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers.

Compared to the average three year life span of a common rat, the 10 to 30 year life of the naked mole rat, a subterranean rodent native to East Africa, is impressive.

And compared to the human body, the body of this rodent shows little decline due to aging; it maintains high activity, bone health, reproductive capacity, and cognitive ability throughout its lifetime.

Dr. Dorothee Huchon of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology, Prof. Rochelle Buffenstein of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and Dr. Yael Edrey of the City College of New York are working together to determine whether the naked mole rat’s unusually high levels of NRG-1, a neuroprotecting protein, is behind the naked mole rat’s three-decade life span.

Because rodents have an 85 percent genetic similarity to humans, it may hold the key to a longer and healthier life for us as well.