19 July 2024
Naked mole-rat metabolism protects against heart attacks

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The Amazing Naked Mole-Rat Metabolism

The naked mole-rat, a peculiar subterranean mammal known for its extreme longevity, has long fascinated scientists due to its unique genetic adaptations that allow it to thrive in low-oxygen environments. Recent research conducted by Dr. Dunja Aksentijevic and her team at Queen Mary University of London has shed light on the secrets of the naked mole-rat’s metabolism, particularly how it protects them from heart attacks. This groundbreaking study, published in Nature Communications, has uncovered the genetic mechanisms that enable these fascinating creatures to survive in oxygen-deprived conditions and avoid heart damage, offering potential insights for human health and medical research.

Genetic Adaptations for Low-Oxygen Survival

The genome of the naked mole-rat contains specific adaptations that enable it to not only survive but thrive in low-oxygen and even no-oxygen environments found in their underground habitats. Dr. Aksentijevic’s research team compared the heart tissue of naked mole-rats to that of other African mole-rat species and evolutionarily divergent mammals. They discovered that the naked mole-rat exhibits a unique expression of genes in heart cells that govern energy generation from sugars, resulting in a metabolic profile unlike any other species studied. These genetic adaptations play a crucial role in the naked mole-rat’s ability to maintain energy reserves and protect their hearts from damage during cardiovascular events.

The Heart’s Unique Metabolic Profile

The naked mole-rat’s heart possesses a distinct cardiometabolic profile that sets it apart from other mole-rats and mammals. This unique metabolic and genetic makeup allows their hearts to withstand reduced oxygen levels and recover from blood occlusion, mimicking conditions of a heart attack. Unlike humans who are susceptible to heart injuries due to lack of oxygen during such events, naked mole-rats have evolved mechanisms to evade such damage. Dr. Chris Faulkes, an expert in Evolutionary Ecology at Queen Mary University, highlights that the hypoxic and social environment in which naked mole-rats live has driven the evolution of these special adaptations in their hearts, contributing to their extraordinary longevity and health span.

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Implications for Human Health and Medical Research

The findings from this study offer valuable insights into how the naked mole-rat’s metabolism and genetic adaptations could inform novel therapeutic approaches for human health. Understanding the mechanisms that protect the naked mole-rat’s heart from damage could potentially lead to the development of new treatments for heart-related conditions in humans, particularly those involving oxygen deprivation. Dr. Aksentijevic emphasizes that the research has unraveled the metabolic and genetic pathways responsible for the naked mole-rat’s remarkable level of cardiac protection, providing a blueprint for future studies in medical research.

The naked mole-rat’s metabolism is a marvel of evolution, showcasing how genetic adaptations can confer unique advantages in challenging environments. By unraveling the secrets of this fascinating creature’s physiology, scientists are not only gaining a deeper understanding of evolutionary biology but also paving the way for innovative approaches to human health and medical research. The naked mole-rat stands as a testament to the wonders of nature’s ingenuity and the potential for scientific discovery to transform the field of medicine.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.cell.com 2. https://www.nature.com 3. https://www.science.org

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Naked mole-rat, Metabolism, Heart attack

Naked mole-rat
The naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), also known as the sand puppy, is a burrowing rodent native to the Horn of Africa and parts of Kenya, notably in Somali regions. It is closely related to the blesmols and is the only species in the genus Heterocephalus.The naked mole-rat exhibits a highly...
Read more: Naked mole-rat

Metabolism
Metabolism (, from Greek: μεταβολή metabolē, "change") is the set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms. The three main functions of metabolism are: the conversion of the energy in food to energy available to run cellular processes; the conversion of food to building blocks of proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and...
Read more: Metabolism

Myocardial infarction
A myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow decreases or stops in one of the coronary arteries of the heart, causing infarction (tissue death) to the heart muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm,...
Read more: Myocardial infarction

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