Naked mole rats offers hope for humans to live longer

Seema Rai
Seema Rai

A new study suggests that naked mole-rats abnormalities in mammalian reproduction may hold the key to preserving human fertility, dealing scientists an intriguing blow once more. With their immunity to cancer, pain tolerance, and lack of aging-related decline. And the ability to generate energy like plants do in low-oxygen environments.

These nearly blind, underground-dwelling rats have already violated numerous biological conventions. A recent study has now clarified how female rodents, who have a lifespan of more than 30 years, may carry on reproducing into old age.

According to main scientist Dr. Miguel Brieo-Enrquez, an assistant professor at the Magee-Womens Research Institute, “Naked mole-rats are the weirdest animals.” They are the longest-living rodents, practically never get cancer, don’t experience pain like other animals. They live in underground colonies, and can only produce offspring through the queen. But the thing that amazes me the most is that they never stop having children; their fertility doesn’t decline with age.

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The scientists compared the ovaries of mice and naked mole rats at various developmental stages

Similar-sized rodents did not exhibit the reproductive decline that mice did beginning at the age of nine months. Although they have a lifetime of about four years. The majority of female mammals, including humans and mice, have a limited amount of egg cells at birth that gradually diminish over time, reducing fertility.

However, it appears that mole rats have unique biological mechanisms that store these cells and maintain their fertility for the whole of their lives. In the study, non-breeding females older than three were eliminated from the colony to stimulate reproduction. They quickly found that these females had egg-precursor cells. That had started dividing in anticipation of their queen position and their role as breeding mole rats.

Unclothed mole rats undergo oogenesis postnatally, unlike humans and other mammals. With egg-precursor cells developing into egg cells in both three-month-old and ten-year-old animals. “This is important because if we can figure out how they’re able to do this, we might be able to develop new drug targets or techniques to help human health,” said Brieo-Enrquez. Menopause still occurs at the same age even though people are living longer.

Oogenesis takes place during the embryonic stage of development in humans. Therefore the total number of egg cells is reached during birth. By adolescence, the one to two million egg cells are reduced to 300,000 to 500,000. And they continue to decrease until menopause. Many people pass away, yet some are lost due to ovulation. Understanding how mole rats maintain their egg cells throughout their lengthy lives—and even produce more—could open up new avenues for human reproductive therapy.

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