Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Naked mole-rats bear lifesaving clues

Could blind, buck-toothed, finger-sized naked mole-rats harbor in their brain cells a survival secret that might lead to better heart attack or stroke treatments?

University of Illinois at Chicago biologist Thomas Park and colleagues at UIC and the University of Texas Heath Science Center at San Antonio think the subterranean lifestyle of the pasty-looking rodents may indeed hold clues to keeping brain cells alive and functioning when oxygen is scarce. The key may lie in how brain cells regulate their intake of calcium.

"Normally, calcium in brain cells does wonderful things, including forming memories," says Park, who is professor of biological sciences at UIC. "But too much calcium makes things go haywire."

Brain cells starved of oxygen can't regulate calcium entry, and too much calcium in the cell is lethal. When a heart attack or stroke prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the brain, brain damage or death results.

Naked mole-rats, however, are very tolerant to oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia -- as are human newborns, whose brain cells have calcium channels that close during oxygen deprivation, protecting the cells from calcium overdose. With age, these calcium channels no longer close, which normally isn't a problem -- except during a heart attack.

Naked mole-rats retain a tolerance for oxygen deprivation into adulthood. Park and his colleagues measured calcium entry in brain tissue that had been kept under oxygen-poor conditions, reporting their findings online Feb. 21 in PLoS One.

"We knew the adults of this unusual mammal had brains that, like infant humans, were very tolerant to oxygen deprivation," he said. "We wanted to know if the adult naked mole-rats used the same strategy as babies to prevent calcium entry. This is exactly what we found."

Park thinks this strategy is an evolutionary adaptation by mole-rats, which live in the hundreds underground in tight, oxygen-deprived conditions.

"Imagine 200 mice living in a shoe box buried four feet under the ground -- things are going to get bad fast," he said.

The researchers think they have identified a novel mechanism for protecting the adult brain in times of oxygen deprivation.

"Developing this target into a clinical application is our next goal," he said. "We need to find a way to rapidly up-regulate the infant-type of calcium channels. Adult humans actually have some of these channels already, but far fewer than infants."

Park, who for years has studied naked mole-rats and their unusual adaptations, thinks the latest findings "are just the tip of the iceberg" of what we can learn from the rodents. Their homes are not only oxygen-poor, but rich in carbon dioxide and ammonia -- conditions that would make most animals ill. Yet mole-rats have evolved to suppress pain and even cancer.

"The more we study these creatures," said Park, "the more we learn."

Co-authors include Rochelle Buffenstein, of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio; Bethany Peterson, a UIC doctoral student in Park's lab; John Larson, UIC associate professor of psychiatry; and Christopher Fall, UIC visiting research associate professor of bioengineering.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health-National Institute of Mental Health Neurotechnology Program.

Paul Francuch | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>