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Naked Mole Rat Brains

March 27, 2012

Researchers have figured out why naked mole rats are resistant to stroke.



Naked mole rat secrets.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In a stroke, brain cells get starved of oxygen and die.  But wrinkly, bucktoothed naked mole rats are resistant to stroke, despite living in crowded burrows with poor air quality.  Now, University of Illinois at Chicago neuroscientist Thomas Park’s team has found out why.  The naked mole rats’ brains resemble those of human fetuses and infants, in that they’re packed with one type of calcium channel.

THOMAS PARK (University of Illinois at Chicago):

We all have infant-style calcium channels and adult-style.  It’s just that the infants have many more of the infant-style, and we have far fewer.  And what we’ve shown is that the naked mole rats are retaining a high proportion of the infant style.

Those infant style channels close when they run out of energy, which prevents excess calcium from poisoning the cell.  The findings may lead to new ways to protect human brains in the event of a stroke.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Naked Mole Rats live in crowded conditions with poor air quality. (Edward Russell/Flickr)