TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (BNO NEWS) -- Finding out what causes the extremely long and active lifespan of naked mole rats may hold the key to a longer and healthier life for humans, American and Israeli researchers said on Monday. A brain-protecting protein is being investigated as a possible cause.
Researchers at the Tel Aviv University, the University of Texas and the City College of New York are working to determine whether the naked mole rat's unusually high levels of NRG-1, a neuroprotecting protein, is behind its three-decade lifespan. This is significantly longer than common rats, which have an average three year lifespan.
Genetic analysis comparing the naked mole rat with several other rodent species has so far shown that these high levels of NRG-1 in adults is directly linked to their longer lifespan. Of all the species the researchers studied, the naked mole rat had the most plentiful and long-lasting supply of the brain-protecting protein, maintaining a consistent level throughout its lifetime. It is concentrated in the cerebellum, the part of the brain important to motor control.
The findings are an important first step towards understanding how aging functions in naked mole rats, and future research could reveal how NRG-1 helps to maintain neuron integrity and lead to discoveries about human aging as well. Rodents have an 85 percent genetic similarity to humans, which means such findings may hold the key to one day extend and improve the lives of humans.
Prof. Rochelle Buffenstein of the University of Texas Health Science Center and Dr. Yael Edrey of the City College of New York monitored NRG-1 levels in a population of naked mole rats ranging in age from one day to 26 years. They found the levels of NRG-1, which is essential for normal brain functioning, were sustained. It may explain why the subterranean rodent is able to live such healthy lives, as the protein safeguards the integrity of neurons.
The naked mole rat, a native to East Africa, is known to show little decline due to aging, maintaining high activity, bone health, reproductive capacity, and cognitive ability throughout its lifetime. The rodent lives in colonies much like those of ants and is also known to be resistant to cancer.
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