Naked mole rats are mouse-sized rodents that have an exceptionally long lifespan compared to rodents of their size: they can live up to 41 years, almost ten times longer than rodents of a similar size. Unlike many other species, naked mole rats do not typically develop diseases (including neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, degenerative bone disease, and cancer) as they age. This has always attracted a great deal of interest in the scientific community, and the genetics of these animals have been studied for decades in hopes of uncovering what genetic mechanisms make them so good at protecting against disease and delaying their aging so much.
Now, in an unprecedented feat, researchers at the University of Rochester in the United States have transferred a longevity gene from naked mole rats to mice, resulting in improved health in these mice and a significant increase in their lifespan.
The success of this transfer opens up the possibility of transferring genes of this class to humans and thus prolonging their lives.
The progress made is the work of the team led by Zhihui Zhang of the University of Rochester in the United States.
The team genetically engineered mice so that instead of having their own gene, they had the version of it naturally possessed by naked mole rats.
The researchers found that mice carrying the naked mole rat version of this gene had better protection against both spontaneous tumors and chemically induced skin cancer.
Mice with the naked mole rat gene also had better overall health and lived longer than normal mice.
As the mice with the naked mole rat gene got older, they had less inflammation in their bodies (inflammation is a hallmark of aging) and their guts were healthier.
The study is titled “Increased hyaluronic acid by naked mole rat Has2 improves health span in mice.” And it was published in the journal Nature.