The naked mole rat, a blind, nearly hairless rodent about the size of a mouse that lives underground, might provide the secret to reducing brain damage caused during a stroke. Thanks to these rodents, scientists know a lot more about how neurons survive in low-oxygen conditions. Armed with this new knowledge, they are working to find a way to prevent or minimize the impact of stroke, not only on seniors but also the 34% of people hospitalized for stroke who are under the age of 65.
The naked mole rat has a very long life span, with some living as long as 32 years, but what makes it unique is its apparent resistance to developing cancer. A team at the University of Rochester first described a process of tumor blockade called early contact inhibition that is present in the naked mole rat but not in any other mammalian species. This process might be part of this rat’s unique tumor busting superpower, effectively protecting it from the rapid cell growth and division that occurs with cancer.