Does the naked mole rat hold the key to the long-sought fountain of youth?

Researchers have found that naked mole rats do not just have immunity to cancer. These animals also appear to defy the mortality law that makes humans and all other known mammals more likely to die as they grow older.

Humans, Other Mammals Increase Their Risk Of Death As They Age

The Gompertz-Makeham law states that from adulthood, the increase in age is directly proportional to increase in the odds of death. Humans, for example, double their risk of death every eight years starting at age 30. All mammals are subjected to this law except the naked mole rats.

Rochelle Buffenstein, who has been studying the burrowing animals for more than three decades, looked at the records of nearly 3,300 naked mole rats. These mammals become sexually mature at six months and based on their size, their expected lifespan should be about 6 years. However, Buffenstein, of the Alphabet-funded research and development company Calico, found that some of these animals can live to more than 30 years and are still able to breed.

She said that this shows that the animals do not age in the same manner as other mammals. They show little to no signs of aging and their odds of dying do not rise even when they reach 25 times past their reproductive maturity. The odds of mortality in these rodents remained at around one in 10,000 for the remainder of their lives.

"This is remarkably low mortality," said Caleb Finch, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. "At advanced ages, their mortality rate remains lower than any other mammal that has been documented."

Naked Mole Rats May Hold Secrets Of Longevity

Buffenstein and colleagues said that the findings, which were published in the journal eLife, show that naked mole rats are exceptional animals that researchers can study to better understand the biological mechanism of longevity.

"This absence of hazard increase with age, in defiance of Gompertz's law, uniquely identifies the naked mole-rat as a non-aging mammal, confirming its status as an exceptional model for biogerontology," the researchers wrote in their study published on Jan. 24.

Identifying the factors that contribute to the exceptional longevity of this "wonder" animal could lead to prolonged youth in humans. Also, it may have important implications in the treatment of age-related health conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

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