Naked mole rats are a peculiar species in the animal kingdom for a number of reasons. These wrinkled rodents are immune to cancer, insensitive to pain, and capable of surviving for up to 18 minutes in zero-oxygen environments. Recently, researchers have discovered that in addition to these peculiarities, naked mole rats — unlike all other mammalian species — simply do not age.
In 1825, British mathematician and actuary Benjamin Gompertz developed the Law of Mortality, which states that an individual’s risk of dying increases exponentially over time. This effect, which occurs once an animal reaches adulthood, applies to all mammals — except the naked mole rat. A recent study which analyzed over 3000 mole rats over the course of 30 years (an average mole rat lifetime) found that the mortality rate for naked mole rats remains roughly constant throughout their lives. In other words, even after they reach sexual maturity (at about 6 months), the naked mole rat’s risk of dying does not increase.
Although scientists are still not sure what drives their resistance to aging, previous work has shown that naked mole rats exhibit exceptionally high rates of DNA repair, which may be responsible for their longevity. Nevertheless, it’s clear that more research is needed to understand the curious nature of these long-lived rodents, and how their biology may help us improve our own longevity.
Managing Correspondent: Tarraneh Eftekhari
Scientific Paper: Naked mole-rat mortality rates defy Gompertzian laws by not increasing with age – eLIFE
Media Coverage: Naked mole rats defy the biological law of aging – Science