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New discovery shows why you want to be a naked mole rat

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As Breast Cancer Awareness month comes to a close, the world is reminded that cancer is still very much a problem. Each year millions of people lose their fight against cancer regardless of the millions of dollars that have been poured into finding a cure.

It’s easy to say that we should have found a cure by now. We have little bits of crucial information that could be pushing us closer to a cure. Still, we’re left without certainty that this awful monster will ever be curbed.

This is precisely why you want to be a…naked mole rat.

Sure, that doesn’t really make sense but, in terms of cancer, naked mole rats are the creatures to be.

Scientists at the University of Rochester have been studying these ugly little rodents for about 30 years. They’ve been manipulating their cells in an attempt to give them cancer. (Nice, huh?) The interesting point is this: they don’t get cancer.

According to the research that was published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these animals have a specific gene that will not allow cells to over-reproduce. This gene is called p16 and it makes cells “claustrophobic” so that when the cells begin to reproduce at alarming rates, they just stop when they get too close. In this way, the tumors never even become tumors because they can’t grow.

Because this is at the beginning stages, it’s hard to tell where this discovery will lead us. Obviously, we would all love a way for this to be harvested in humans. It sure would be weird though to know that your life saved by something as ugly as this.

andrea @ October 27, 2009

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