Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 21st 2013 Contents A28
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, June 21, 2013
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It isn't pretty but the naked mole rat may be a big help in cancer treatment.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
A rodent that never gets cancer could hold the
key to preventing or treating malignant tumours,
Lab studies show the skin cells of the naked mole
rat are high in a natural sugary substance that stops
The findings could lead to new human cancer
therapies in the long term, researchers report in
A similar version of the chemical is used as a med-
icine to treat arthritis and in anti-wrinkle jabs.
A team led by researchers from the University of
Rochester, New York, US, investigated the anti-
cancer properties of the naked mole rat.
Unlike other small rodents, such as rats and mice,
the curious creature does not get cancer in later life.
The US team, led by Andrei Seluanov and Vera
Gorbunova, cultured skin cells from the rodent in
They found that the animal s tissues were rich in
high molecular weight hyaluronan (HMW-HA), a
gooey sugar that is involved in tissue repair.
Similar versions of the substance are licensed to
relieve pain in arthritis and are used as cosmetic
fillers to treat wrinkles, say the researchers.
Experiments show that when HMW-HA is
removed from naked mole rat cells, they become
susceptible to cancer, suggesting it plays a role in
making the rodent "cancer-proof."
Dr Gorbunova told BBC News: "Studying animals
that are naturally cancer-resistant can be very reward-
ing and can lead to discovery of mechanisms that
can benefit humans in terms of treatment and pre-
vention of cancer."
The researchers think the substance gives the
naked mole rat its distinctive, elastic "baggy" skin,
which it needs to squeeze through underground tun-
While it has probably evolved to provide the rodent
with an exceptionally flexible skin, it also gives pro-
tection against cancer, possibly by stopping cancerous
cells from dividing.
The next step, they say, is to test the chemical in
mice, then human cells.
Dr Seluanov added: "There s indirect evidence
that HMW-HA would work in people.
"It s used in anti-wrinkle injections and to relieve
pain from arthritis in knee joints, without any adverse
"Our hope is that it can also induce an anti-cancer
The study, carried out with scientists in China
and Israel, is published in the journal Nature.
Commenting on the research, Oliver Childs of
Cancer Research UK said new cancer treatments
from the research were "a long way off."
"They re not going to win any beauty contests,
but these curious creatures have long interested sci-
entists because of their exceptionally lengthy life
spans and resistance to cancer," he said.
"This fascinating research builds on previous work
revealing the biological tricks mole rats have evolved
to prevent cancer.
"It s a long way off, but it will be interesting to
see if further research can find a way to use hyaluro-
nan to help prevent or treat cancer in humans."
Naked mole rat
gives cancer clues
About the naked mole rat
• Naked mole rats can live for around 30 years,
an age unprecedented in small rodents
• Mice, in comparison, live for no longer than
• The rodent has no fur and spends its life living
underground in dark tunnels in a colony
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