SAN ANTONIO, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've sequenced the complete genome of the naked mole rat to try to understand the animal's extraordinarily long life and good health.
"If we understand which genes are different or are expressed differently in naked mole rats -- compared to short-lived mice that clearly have poor defenses against aging and cancer -- we might find clues as to why the naked mole rat is able to extend both health span and longevity, as well as fight cancer, and this information could be directly relevant and translatable to humans," said Rochelle Buffenstein, professor of physiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
The mouse-sized naked mole rat is the longest-lived rodent known, surviving as long as 31 years in captivity, a UT release said Wednesday. They live underground in large family groups and are extremely tolerant of life in low oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide, researchers said.
It's their capacity to resist cancer and maintain protein integrity in the face of low oxygen levels that makes them an ideal animal model for aging and biomedical research, Buffenstein said.
"This study reveals many of the genetic secrets to their extraordinary longevity, cancer resistance and pain tolerance, and their ability to survive in a low-oxygen environment," she said.