Longevity Secrets of The Naked Mole Rat

longevity secrets of the naked mole rat

The naked mole rat is the longest-living rodent known and can live an astonishing 16x longer than regular rats.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  Naked mole rats are immune to environmental chemicals, they don’t feel pain when being burnt with acid and in their natural habitats they are immune to cancer. In this episode you’ll learn the mystery as to WHY they have such remarkable health features, which mainstream scientists can’t even explain to this day.

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Introduction

The naked mole rat is a type of rodent found naturally in the hot, arid regions of eastern Africa, which spends its entire existence underground, or subterranean.  They live in colonies with about 75 other rats, but their colonies can be as large as 300 mole rats.

Naked mole rat native to eastern africa

The naked mole rat’s large, protruding teeth are used to dig, and their mouths are sealed just behind their teeth so their mouths don’t fill with soil while they’re digging.  They can move backwards as quickly as they can move forwards.  They eat primarily large tubers that they find underground through their mining operations.  And their tunnel systems can stretch from three to five kilometres (2–3 miles) in cumulative length.

Now let’s take a look at some of the remarkable health features of the naked mole rat.

7 Mindblowing Facts about The Naked Mole Rat

  • They reproduce from birth to the grave
    Humans tend to believe that men have the capacity to reproduce their entire lives, but women can only reproduce until menopause.  The question is: Is menopause inevitable?  Not for naked mole rats who, after reaching sexual maturity at about 6 months, can reproduce for their entire lifespans.  If we can figure out what is conferring their lifelong reproduction, perhaps humans can gain the same benefit (Edrey YH. et al, 2011).
Naked mole rat1
  • They don’t feel pain after being burnt with acid
    The naked mole rat “is exceptional in its acid insensitivity,” wrote scientist ES Smith and his colleagues in a 2011 study published in the journal Science.  Indeed, studies testing pain threshold of naked mole rats found that they registered no pain after being burnt with acid.  Their theory explaining why was a species-specific gene modification that allowed acid sensors to not be activated upon contact with acid (Smith ES. et al, 2011).

  • Their brains can withstand long periods without oxygen
    Mammalian brains typically suffer irreversible damage after brief periods of oxygen deprivation, for example, during a stroke or cardiac arrest.  A 2009 study published in Neuroreport found that “brain tissue from naked-mole rats, rodents that live in a chronically low-oxygen environment, is remarkably resistant to hypoxia.” Their theory explaining why was that brain tolerance to hypoxia “may result from slowed or arrested brain development”(Larson J. et al, 2009).
Naked mole rat immune to cancer
  • They are immune to damage from toxins and other stressors
    Compared with mice, naked mole rat cells have a remarkable resistance to many harmful insults including,
  • Paraquat
  • High temperature
  • Heavy metals
  • DNA damaging agents
  • Harmful foreign materials

Naked mole rats have the ability to resist damage at the cellular level over the course of their lives.  And as researchers in a 2016 study admitted, “the underlying mechanisms are unclear” (Orr. et al, 2016).

  • They are immune to cancer
    Cancer has never been observed in naked mole rats living in their natural habitats underground.  Something about their natural environment makes them immune to cancer (Liang S, et al, 2010).  Interestingly, in 2016, a report was published claiming that two naked mole rats developed cancer.  However, as it turns out, both naked mole rats in this case were born and living in captivity at zoos, which is a much different environment then their subterranean burrows (Delaney MA, et al. 2016). 
Naked mole rat long lifespan
  • They can live up to 16x longer than normal rats
    Rats typically live only 2 to 2.5 years maximum.  And yet the longest lived naked mole rat ever observed was 32 years old.  That’s a 16x increase in lifespan!  The naked mole rat is the longest-living rodent known.  The exceptional longevity and disease resistance of the naked mole rat have researchers calling it “a true ‘supermodel’ for aging research and resistance to chronic age-associated diseases.”

  • They do not age
    Unlike all other mammals studied to date, a naked mole rat’s risk of death does no go up as it gets older, wrote scientists in a study from January 2018.  “This absence of hazard increase with age, in defiance with Gompertz’s law, [a mathematical equation that describes aging] uniquely identifies the naked mole-rat as a non-aging mammal,” they continued.  “After they reached sexual maturity at 6 months of age, each naked mole rat’s daily chance of dying was a little more than one in 10,000.  It stayed the same the rest of their lives and even went down a little,” reported scientist Buffenstein.  “It goes against everything we know in terms of mammalian biology (Ruby JG. et al. 2018).
Naked mole rats do not age

Mainstream Scientists are Baffled by The Naked Mole Rat

We now know at least 7 of the remarkable health features of the naked mole rat.  But what is causing these incredible benefits?  Mainstream scientists have a number of theories, some of which we touched upon.  However, ultimately, in even the most recent studies, they admit that they haven’t figured it out yet; to the mainstream, the longevity secrets of the naked mole rat remain a mystery.

Mainstream Science Funds Genetic-Based Research Only

The reason why scientists haven’t figured it out yet is that mainstream scientific research is focused almost entirely on genetics, and as it turns out genetics have virtually nothing to do with the naked mole rat’s outstanding health.

A friend of mine and fellow researcher emailed one of the reknowned scientists working with naked mole rats asking them to study the metabolism of naked mole rats.  The scientist replied,

“No way in hell I am going to check metabolism.  I got 3 grants from NIH [The National Institutes of Health] decoding the naked mole rat genome so I have no time for this metabolic nonsense.”

Mainstream medicine is not interested in metabolic research, because it would lead to cures for diseases – and as we all know cures are not profitable products for the medical industry.  By focusing (and funding) studies solely on genetics, the answers, like the explanations for the outstanding features of the naked mole rat, are never found.  But they can’t control all research…

Metabolism is The Key

As Dr. Raymond Peat has written about the naked mole rat, “They live in burrows that are kept closed, so the percentage of oxygen is lower than in the outside air, and the percentage of carbon dioxide ranges from 0.2% to 5%.”  Although I’ve never found any claims made by Dr. Peat that weren’t backed by evidence, I decided to do my due diligence by searching for evidence that would either validate or disprove his claim, and found a fantastic Israeli study on the subject. 

A 2005 study by Israeli scientists investigated the oxygen and carbon dioxide content in burrows of three species of subterranean mole rats and found that maximal CO2 levels were 6.1% and minimal O2 levels were 7.2% (Shams I. et al, 2005).  This explains why in the 2016 study, the rats in captivity got cancer and ones in their natural habitat don’t.  They lived in an environment with 21% atmospheric oxygen compared to their natural 7%, and CO2 was 0.04% compared to their natural 6%.

Naked mole rat burrow compared to earth's atmosphere

Naked Mole Rat Burrow vs. Elevation

As it turns out, there are similarities between the health effects of altitude and the atmospheric conditions within a naked mole rat burrow.  At altitude, the oxygen pressure is reduced and in a naked mole rat burrow, the concentrations of both oxygen and carbon dioxide are reduced.  Despite these differences, it turns out they are two ways to achieve the same thing in the body:  Increased carbon dioxide and decreased oxygen.  These two features are the key in understanding the remarkable health imparted to the naked mole rats (as well as people living at altitude) by their environment.

Elevation compared to naked mole rat burrow

Highly Saturated Tissue Phospholipids

One of the most important characteristics of mole rat tissues that can account for their long lifespans, lack of aging, lack of cancer, remarkable resistance to toxicity and others, is they are made up of fats which are highly saturated.

In a 2004 study, researchers investigated longevity in mammals by looking at the type of fatty acids contained within their cell membranes.  The study found, “The degree of unsaturation of tissue fatty acids also correlates inversely with maximum longevity” (Barja G, et al. 2004).  Or as Dr. Peat wrote on the subject, “Animals that naturally have a relatively low level of highly unsaturated fats in their tissues have the greatest longevity.”

What is the composition of fatty acids of naked mole rats vs regular mice?

The following study asked that very question.  A 2006 study investigated tissue phospholipids in mice compared to naked mole rats.  “Both species had similar amounts of membrane total unsaturated fatty acids, however, mice had 9 times more decosahexaenoic acid (DHA).”  “Because this n-3 PUFA is more susceptible to lipid peroxidation, mole rat membranes are substantially more resistant to oxidative stress than are mice membranes” (Hulbert AJ, et al. 2006).

It turns out the naked mole rats cell membranes are comprised of fatty acids with a much higher degree of saturation.  A 2007 study continued along that same line of research and was able to determine the exact percentages of omega-3 within the tissues of mice versus the naked mole rat.  “DHA-containing phospholipids represent 27-57% of all phospholipids in mice but only 2-6% in naked mole-rats” (Mitchell TW, et al. 2007).

One of the reasons for this are that the temperature within the naked mole rat is high, so the fats they synthesize will be saturated, because they need to be or they would oxidize and the rat wouldn’t survive.  It’s like if a cold-water fish produced saturated fats, it would harden like a stick of butter in the fridge.  The types of fats animals synthesize for themselves are determined largely by the temperature in their environment. 

Another reason for their higher tissue fatty acid saturation is that they consume tubers, which are low in fat.  The body cannot synthesize omega-3, which means they don’t get much of this highly toxic fat at all.  Assuming naked mole rats also eat bugs while underground, their diets are relatively low in fats.  If they ever needed to synthesize fats, they would likely create saturated fat from fructose found in their foods.

College of Staten Island, New York Study Shocks Researchers

I want to finish this article with a fascinating study by researchers at the College of Staten Island in New York which shocked the researchers involved.

In 2010, Researchers at the College of Staten Island in New York re-created the environmental conditions of a naked mole-rat burrow (lower oxygen and increased carbon dioxide) in their laboratory and examined its effects on naked mole rat activity levels, memory and social interaction.   

Naked mole rat study shocks researchers in new york

They hypothesized that the environment would have a negative impact on the activity, memory and social interaction of the rats.  This of course was because mainstream biology teaches students that anything less than the regular 21% atmospheric oxygen is toxic.  It is also taught that the levels of CO2 within a mole rat burrow are toxic.  Naturally, mainstream researchers would predict that this environment would have a negative impact on the mole rats.

The results?  When the rats were put into an environment of decreased oxygen (“hypoxic”) and increased carbon dioxide (“hypercapnic”)…

  • The rats became MORE social
  • They had significantly improved memory scores
  • Their overall movements increased by 76.8%

The researchers who conducted the study concluded “Results did not support the original hypothesis that activity, memory and social interaction levels would decrease under hypercapnic hypoxia” (Berkovits R. et al, 2017).

References

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