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Dream of eternal youth: do naked mole rats solve the mystery of longevity?


Can the longevity of the naked mole mill slow human aging?

Among rodents, naked mole rats are considered methusalems because they can grow many times older than their closer relatives such as mice, rats and guinea pigs. Current research has now examined the genetic and molecular features of these long-lived animals in order to gain important insights for a long and healthy life in humans.

A scientific team from the Leibniz Institute for Aging Research - Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) has now published two current studies on aging research together with other research institutions. According to the researchers, the aging process of the nude mole is similar to that of humans. The findings could help slow human aging processes. The results were recently published in the specialist journal "BMC Biology".

The disposable body theory

The researchers report on the so-called "disposable body theory" (English: Disposable Soma Theory of Aging). In this theory of evolution it is assumed that every living being has only limited energy resources available during its life. These should be sufficient for the maintenance of physical functions as well as for reproduction. According to the theory, if a species is exposed to constant dangers from predators, the available resources are more likely to be put into reproduction. For species that are less at risk, more resources are used to maintain their own organism. These more long-lived species keep your body healthy and thus achieve a longer reproductive phase in the course of a longer life.

About the nude grinder

Naked mole (Heterocephalus glaber) live mainly in underground cave systems in the semi-deserts of East Africa. They form large colonies that have a social structure. The queen of the colony is responsible for the offspring with one to three males. Theoretically, all animals in the colony are fertile. However, the presence of the queen and the "chosen" breeders suppresses the sexual maturation of the remaining animals.

Not nice, but old

Often referred to as ugly nude moles have a particularly long life. If you compare their life expectancy with related rodents such as mice, rats and guinea pigs, naked mole rats can get much older. Their lifespan is up to 30 years. The approximately mouse-sized animals remain healthy and reproductive throughout their life. The FLI researchers therefore asked themselves what molecular or genetic properties can explain the long and healthy life.

Is aging determined by reproduction and genetics?

In one of the two studies, a team of researchers led by Dr. Martin Bens from the Leibniz Institute for Aging Research sheds more light on the relationship between reproduction and longevity of naked mole rats. The researchers extracted male and female workers who were inactive from reproduction from several colonies and had them found a new colony. Subsequently, individuals from the colony were genetically examined and compared to guinea pigs. "Our results show that naked mole mills have special age-related genetic characteristics," explains Dr. Bens in a press release.

Sexually active naked moles live longer

"While there was no significant difference in the molecular signatures between females and males in the reproductive-inactive mole rats and guinea pigs, nude mole rats not only showed changes in sexual characteristics during the course of sexual maturation, but also in the gene expression profiles of their tissues," explains Dr. Bens. Thus the process of sexual maturation is associated with an extended lifespan. According to Bens, this also explains why the naked mole rat queens live up to 30 years, although they give birth to up to 40 offspring per year.

The risk of death does not increase with age

As the FLI researchers report, further studies have shown that the risk of death in animals does not increase with age. This would mean that nude mole practically does not age. The research team checked this in a further study in which the aging process of naked mole rats was examined at the molecular level. To identify factors that distinguish long-lived from short-lived species, the researchers compared the liver of naked mole rats to that of guinea pigs.

Aging naked also

"In comparison to naked mole rat to guinea pigs, we found different ways of generating energy between the two species," reports Dr. Alessandro Ori, junior group leader at FLI and lead author of the study. For example, naked garbage could use fatty acids better. But the traces of time were also evident in the aging-resistant naked mole-packs. Age-related changes in protein levels were found in the liver of older animals. “For us, this is an indication that aging processes also take place in the naked garbage,” summarizes Ori.

What does all this do for people?

"Interestingly, aging of the naked mole in the liver affects the same group of proteins that are responsible for the elimination of toxic substances in humans," write the evolution experts. This indicates a direct connection between the aging processes of humans and naked mole rats. The researchers hope that this discovered commonality can also be used in future studies to slow down the aging process of humans. "Now we have to investigate whether the observed molecular changes during the life of naked mole rats affect their health and limit their life expectancy," summarizes Dr. Ori. (vb)

Author and source information

Video: Why do naked mole rats live so long? (August 2020).