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Blind Mole Rats

December 6, 2012

The blind mole rat, like its distant cousin the naked mole rat, never gets cancer.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Suicidal cancer cells.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The naked mole rat is famous for many things, including an apparent resistance to all types of cancer. As it turns out, its distant and much hairier cousin the blind mole rat is no slouch either. But this species has evolved an entirely different way of circumventing cancer. University of Rochester cell biologists Andrei Seluanov and Vera Gorbunova say that when naked mole rat cells are grown in the lab, a gene kicks in to prevent tumor formation in response to cell overcrowding. The researchers expected blind mole rat cells to do the same thing.

VERA GORBUNOVA (University of Rochester):

They were completely different. They didn’t show this sensitivity to overcrowding, but instead they were showing this massive cell death.

HIRSHON:

She says the cellular suicide was caused by the secretion of interferon beta, which in other animals is produced to fight off viral infections. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

A blind mole rat. (Bassim18/Wikipedia)