At first glance, there's not much to envy about the naked mole rat. The homely little rodent sports wrinkled skin, stubby legs, and poor eyesight--and it spends its days living underground.
But get this: scientists say the naked mole rat is a paragon of graceful aging.
Common rats live about three years on average. The naked mole rat typically lives 10 to 30 years. And unlike humans, the naked mole rat--a species native to East Africa--shows little of the slow decline in mental and physical health as the years pile up. The animals maintain high levels of physical activity, their bones stay strong, and they can even continue to reproduce in their old age.
What's the little guy's secret? A new study conducted by scientists in the U.S. and Israel suggests that one key may be unusually high levels of NRG-1, a protein that is believed to protect the integrity of the body's nerve cells, according to a written statement released in conjunction with the research. The research could lead to new insights about human aging--as rodents' genes are 85 percent similar to humans'.
The study was conducted by scientists at Tel Aviv University, the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and the City College of New York. It was published in the journal Aging Cell.