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 February 7, 2018

Zhao, Gorbunova, and Seluanov find another piece to the puzzle in naked mole rats’ long, cancer-free life

With their large buck teeth and wrinkled, hairless bodies, naked mole rats won’t be winning any awards for cutest rodent. But their long life span—they can live up to 30 years, the longest of any rodent—and remarkable resistance to age-related diseases, offer scientists key clues to the mysteries of aging and cancer.

That’s why University of Rochester biology professors Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov and postdoctoral associate Yang Zhao studied naked mole rats to see if the rodents exhibit an anticancer mechanism called cellular senescence—and, if so, “how the mechanism might work differently than in short-lived animals, like mice,” says Zhao, the lead author of the study, published in PNAS.

Cellular senescence is an evolutionary adaptation that prevents damaged cells from dividing out of control and developing into full-blown cancer. However, senescence has a negative side too: by stopping cell division in order to prevent potential tumors, it also accelerates aging.