Department News

Vera Gorbunova discusses the strange life of naked mole rats

May 25, 2021

There’s no single force that drives cellular aging; it’s a network of feedback loops. Enzymes read genes like a grocery list of different proteins to prepare, and those proteins might protect that enzyme, or that gene, or some body-wide process. Your body is programmed to tolerate these bumps and bruises. “While we are young, that repair actually works almost flawlessly,” says Vera Gorbunova, a biogerontologist who studies mole rats at the University of Rochester. When aging sets in, though, “now damage outpaces repair.” Gene-reading enzymes falter, misfolded proteins gum up the brain, sputtering mitochondria weaken muscles, and cancers bloom.