Super powers of the mole rat

The African mole rat may hold the key to help scientists understand pain relief and aging?

This hairless, gentle, bucktoothed rodent (Heterocephalus glaber) feels no pain either from acid ornaked-mole-rat the sting of the capsaicin from chili peppers. This animal lacks the chemical hormone Substance P, which causes the feeling of burning pain in mammals. “Substance P is important specifically to the long-term, secondary-order inflammatory pain. It’s the pain that can last for hours or days when you pull a muscle or have a surgical procedure,” he explained.
The insights gained from work with this animal might shed new light on chronic pain.

By studying the nerve fibers of this animal, we’ll be able to develop new strategies and targets.”It could lead to new drugs for people with chronic pain if scientists could unravel this critters secret to being the bionic feel no pain model of success.
Naked mole rats live in cramped, oxygen-starved burrows some six feet underground in central East Africa. Unusually, they are cold-blooded which is unique among mammals.
Testing for acid sensitivity
When an unconscious mole rats had their paws injected with a slight dose of acid, “about what you’d experience with lemon juice. Every animal tested — from fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and all other mammals every animal is sensitive to acid, but not the mole rat.

To understand their pain resistance the researchers next used a modified cold sore virus carrying the genes for Substance P (a common hormone used to relieve pain and inflammation in humans and mammals) to just one rear foot of each tested rodent. The DNA restored the naked mole rats’ ability to feel the burning sensation other mammals experience from capsaicin by pulling back their foot and licking it while their other feet remained insensitive to the sting of capsaicin.

Why test with capsaicin?

Capsaicin is targets the excitatory nerve fibers that normally have Substance P. These fibers only respond after an injury or burn and produce longer-lasting pain they do not respond to minor pain from pinpricks.
Curiously, the researchers found that mole rats remained completely insensitive to acids, even with the Substance P genes. This suggests there is a fundamental difference in how their nerves respond to such pain. The mole rat is the only animal that shows completely no response to acid.”
This insensitivity to acid may be needed to live underground where the rodents exhale high levels of carbon dioxide. In these tight, poorly ventilated spaces with little fresh air the CO2 builds up in tissues, making them more acidic. So over time the mole rat skin became insensitive to acid.
“There environment live in an 10% CO2 environment where if humans lived even in a 5% atmosphere of CO2 and air our skin, nose and eyes would feel a sharp, burning, stinging sensation.
Researcher Gary Lewin, a neuroscientist at the Max Delbrück Institute for Molecular Medicine in Germany, noted that all vertebrate pain-receptor systems are built in a highly similar way, so if we can crack the code of the mole rat’s insensitivity we might be able to help a lot of people with chronic pain find relief.

Aging secrets -never live above ground and let the queen rule
No bigger than a stick of butter, mole-rats the long outlive similar-sized rodents. The naked mole-rat, lives a long time for a rodent 30 years with little aging. Rochelle Buffenstein of the City College of New York. “This animal may one day provide the clues to how we can significantly extend life.”

Does their lifestyle hold the key to their longevity?

Their skin stays wrinkly and pink but not dry

They live in colonies of up to 300 individuals, with one breeding female similar to a queen bee.
Within their tunneling burrows, they delineate a separate toilet area, where feces and urine get stored.

They live in colonies of up to 300 individuals, with one breeding female similar to a queen bee.
• Within their tunneling burrows, they delineate a separate toilet area, where feces and urine get stored.
Resources

Naked Mole-rats Hold Clues to Human Aging -Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience October 9, 2006
http://www.livescience.com/animals/080128-mole-rat-pain.html

http://www.wetasschronicles.com/MoleRat.jpg

Image courtesy of

http://anlo.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/naked-mole-rat.jpg

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1 Comment

  1. Sir Pilkington Smythe said,

    June 4, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    you forgot to mention how beautiful they are … reminds me of gordon ramsay
    i’m going to link to your site a return would be heartily appreciated


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