Naked mole-rats. It’s hardto pin down which part of
the name is more disturbing;
the fact that they are rats, that they live underground,
or that they do so while completely naked.
They live in underground colonies of up to 300 individuals, with
one breeding female, similar to a queen bee. They rarely come
out and are nearly blind.
The part that is really fascinating is that they can live for 30
years. Like a pink burrito with legs, naked mole-rats live many
times the lifespan of their hairy above-ground relatives.
In the body, oxygen splits into single atoms, causing damage to
cells, proteins and genetic material. Antioxidants produced by
the body help to neutralize this free-radical attack.
Since mole-rats live several times longer than other rodents their
size, we would expect them to exhibit either lower oxidative
stress or a greater ability to defend against the attack by free
radicals, perhaps by employing more antioxidants.
In fact, mole-rats exhibit more oxidative damage, including more
DNA and protein damage in the kidney and liver. Plus, they had
lower levels of oxidative neutralizers. Yet somehow they live on.
Researchers claim this animal may one day provide clues to how
we can significantly extend life, but they are quick to point out
that the wisdom of doing so is perhaps an even bigger question.
In any case, further research is needed to figure out exactly how
the mole-rats live with the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Maybe the secret is in being naked… Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!