More Structured Senescence May Be Another Clue to Long Life Span and Cancer Resistance of Naked Mole Rat

With their large buck teeth and wrinkled, hairless bodies, naked mole rats won't be winning any awards for cutest rodent. But their long life span--they can live up to 30 years, the longest of any rodent--and remarkable resistance to age-related diseases, offer scientists key clues to the mysteries of aging and cancer. That's why University of Rochester biology professors Vera Gorbunova, PhD, and Andrei Seluanov, PhD, and postdoctoral associate Yang Zhao, PhD, studied naked mole rats to see if the rodents exhibit an anticancer mechanism called cellular senescence--and, if so, "how the mechanism might work differently than in short-lived animals, like mice," says Dr. Zhao, the lead author of the study, published online on February 5, 2018 in PNAS. The article is titled “Naked Mole Rats Can Undergo Developmental, Oncogene-Induced and DNA Damage-Induced Cellular Senescence.” Cellular senescence is an evolutionary adaptation that prevents damaged cells from dividing out of control and developing into full-blown cancer. However, senescence has a negative side too: by stopping cell division in order to prevent potential tumors, it also accelerates aging. Previous studies indicated that when cells that had undergone senescence were removed from mice, the mice were less frail in advanced age as compared to mice that aged naturally with senescent cells intact. Researchers therefore believed senescence held the key to the proverbial fountain of youth; removing senescent cells rejuvenated mice, so perhaps it could work with human beings. Companies began investigating drugs--known as senolytic agents--that would kill senescent cells and translate the anti-aging effects to humans.
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