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Oxygen-Deprived Mole-rats

April 21, 2017

An odd-looking little mammal uses a trick from the plant kingdom to survive without oxygen.


Nacktmullforschung Max-Delbrück-Centrum für molekulare Medizin in Buch, Berlin Forscher Prof. Gary Lewin, Prof. Thomas J. Park, Dr. Jane Reznick

A naked mole-rat in the lab. (Roland Gockel/MDC)


Surviving without oxygen. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Naked mole-rats are nature’s strangest mammal, thriving in crowded, oxygen-deprived burrows. Now, researchers report in Science magazine that the hairless, buck-toothed rodents can survive for more than five hours in low oxygen conditions, and for nearly 20 minutes without any oxygen at all. University of Illinois at Chicago neuroscientist Thomas Park’s team discovered that one key to their survival is a unique ability to fuel their brain and heart with fructose sugar rather than glucose when deprived of oxygen.

THOMAS PARK (University of Illinois at Chicago):

We consider fructose metabolism like that to be something only plants do. So this  was a very big surprise.


But Park says it may be possible to modify human metabolic pathways to be more like naked mole-rats when deprived of oxygen, which could potentially save lives during heart attacks. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

wilde Nacktmulle in Kenia,in Schlafkammer

Naked mole-rats huddling together in their natural habitat. (Roland Gockel/MDC)