A Human Interest Naked Mole Rat Story

As you might know, the naked mole rat is of great interest to aging researchers: "For three decades, Old Man selflessly helped scientists unravel the mysteries behind Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, cancer and other age-related diseases. Born in Kenya, he lived an active life - including siring offspring - until early Thanksgiving, when his body was discovered in a lab at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies on the campus of the Texas Research Park. A naked mole rat, Old Man was believed to be 32. ... The Barshop Institute m[aintains] the world's largest mole rat colony. About 2,000 of the tiny, burrowing rodents whose most distinctive feature is their sharp, protruding teeth, live and breed in four basement labs. With their long, hairless bodies and translucent pink skin, they look a bit like Vietnamese spring rolls with legs. ... Because these natives of East Africa live an average 26 years (compared to the 2- to 4-year lifespan of other rodents), they're well-suited for studies of age-related disease. For example, older mole rats develop the same type of brain plaque as that found in Alzheimer's patients. But for reasons unknown, they don't experience similar cognitive decline. Their bones also stay strong and healthy well into their later years. And perhaps most intriguing, mole rats very rarely develop cancer - a common cause of death among other rodents. In fact, when immune-suppressed mice were injected with naked mole rat cells containing tumor-forming genes, they didn't develop cancer. ... Among the many mole rats at the institute, however, Old Man stood out. Because of his advanced age and vigor, he'd claimed a special place in the hearts of many researchers. Laboratory animal attendant Cody Villanueva discovered his body early Thanksgiving morning. 'Oh, it was a sad day,' she recalled. 'I cried. We all did.'"

Link: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Old-Man-the-naked-mole-rat-is-no-more-913897.php

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