The naked mole rat: the best small rodent in the world with which to do research

It might not be cute, but Science magazine recently named the toothy underground rodent its ‘Vertebrate of the Year’ for 2013

Naked mole rat: appears to be cancer-resistant

Naked mole rat: appears to be cancer-resistant


The naked mole rat may not be conventionally cute, but it has certainly captured the hearts of scientific researchers, and Science magazine recently named the toothy underground rodent its “Vertebrate of the Year” for 2013.

Curiously, the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) can live a relatively long life – 30 years or more in some cases – and it appears to be protected from cancer. Two studies from the University of Rochester that explored the burrowing mammal’s longevity and anti-cancer strategies helped to win the naked mole rat its 2013 accolade.

One study found an unusual type of molecule, a high-molecular-mass hyaluronan (HA), in the rodent’s tissues. Without it, the naked mole rats seemed to be less resistant to cancer.

“We speculate that naked mole rats have evolved a higher concentration of HA in the skin to provide skin elasticity needed for life in underground tunnels,” wrote the researchers in the journal Nature. “This trait may have then been co-opted to provide cancer resistance and longevity to this species.”

In another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers found that naked mole rats are more accurate than mice when making proteins in their cells.

“The next step in our research is to take those mechanisms we discovered in the naked mole rat and then move them into mice, and to see whether mice will live longer and will be more resistant to cancer,” said University of Rochester biologist Prof Vera Gorbunova, in a video on the university’s website.

“This will be a proof of principle that those mechanisms that we discovered in the naked mole rat can be moved to a different species and can ultimately benefit humans.”

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.