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Naked Mole Rat Survival

December 28, 2009

Naked mole rats can survive without oxygen longer than any other mammal.


Oxygen-defying mole rats…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Without oxygen, most mammals would suffer brain damage or even death within a few minutes. But not the naked mole rat. Neuroscientists John Larson and Thomas Park study the ugly little rodents at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Larson says their brain cells are unmatched in their ability to withstand oxygen deprivation.

JOHN LARSON (University of Illinois at Chicago):
So the mouse would only survive about 2, 3, 4 minutes, and naked moles rats could survive much longer than that – 15, 20, sometimes even 30 minutes long.

They live in crowded underground colonies where oxygen is scarce, not unlike inside the womb. Larson says neonatal animals are more tolerant of oxygen deprivation than adults, and that naked mole rat brains may have retained juvenile characteristics to survive. Understanding the process could help lead to better treatments for stroke victims. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.