The study was published online this week on PLOS ONE.
In the tightly crowded burrows of the African naked mole-rats' world, carbon dioxide builds up to levels that would be toxic for other mammals, and the air becomes highly acidic. These animals freely tolerate these unpleasant conditions, says Thomas Park, professor of biological sciences at UIC and principal investigator of the study -- which may offer clues to relieving pain in other animals and humans.
Much of the lingering pain of an injury, for example, is caused by acidification of the injured tissue, Park said.
"Acidification is an unavoidable side-effect of injury," he said. "Studying an animal that feels no pain from an acidified environment should lead to new ways of alleviating pain in humans."
In the nose of a mammal, specialized nerve fibers are activated by acidic fumes, stimulating the trigeminal nucleus, a collection of nerves in the brainstem, which in turn elicits physiological and behavioral responses that protect the animal -- it will secrete mucus and rub its nose, for example, and withdraw or avoid the acidic fumes.
The researchers placed naked mole-rats in a system of cages in which some areas contained air with acidic fumes. The animals were allowed to roam freely, and the time they spent in each area was tracked. Their behavior was compared to laboratory rats, mice, and a closely related mole-rat species that likes to live in comfy conditions, as experimental controls.
The naked mole-rats spent as much time exposing themselves to acidic fumes as they spent in fume-free areas, Park said. Each control species avoided the fumes.
The researchers were able to quantify the physiologic response to exposure to acidic fumes by measuring a protein, c-Fos, an indirect marker of nerve activity that is often expressed when nerve cells fire. In naked mole-rats, no such activity was found in the trigeminal nucleus when stimulated. In rats and mice, however, the trigeminal nucleus was highly activated.
The naked mole-rats' tolerance of acidic fumes is consistent with their adaptation to living underground in chronically acidic conditions, Park said.The study was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Pamela LaVinka, graduate student in biological sciences at UIC, was first author on the study.
Jeanne Galatzer-Levy | EurekAlert!
Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus
22.05.2017 | University of Toronto
Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
19.05.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy