The Naked Mole Rat Challenge

From a recent review paper: "Naked mole rats (NMRs; Heterocephalus glaber) are the longest-living rodents known, with a maximum lifespan of 30 years— - 5 times longer than expected on the basis of body size. These highly social mouse-sized rodents, naturally found in subterranean burrows in the arid and semiarid regions of the horn of Africa, are commonly used in behavioral, neurological, and ecophysiological research. Very old NMRs (>28 years), like humans, show signs of age-associated pathologies (e.g., muscle loss) as well as the accumulation of lipofuscin pigments, but no signs of tumorigenesis. Indeed, for at least 80% of their lives NMRs maintain normal activity, body composition, and reproductive and physiological functions with no obvious age-related increases in morbidity or mortality rate. Their long lifespan is attributed to sustained good health and pronounced cancer resistance. Clearly physiological and biochemical processes in this species have evolved to dramatically extend both their good health and lifespan. We and others have tested various current theories using this species as an exceptionally long-lived animal model of successful abrogated aging. Surprisingly, NMRs have high levels of oxidative stress and relatively short telomeres, yet they are extremely resilient when subjected to cellular stressors and appear capable of sustaining both their genomic and protein integrity under hostile conditions. The challenge is to understand how these animals are able to do this. Elucidating these mechanisms will provide useful information for enhancing human life- and healthspan, making the naked mole rat a true “supermodel” for aging research and resistance to chronic age-associated diseases."