Why don't naked mole-rats get cancer? As it turns out, it's about the microenvironment

Naked mole-rat is one of the most popular objects to study among long-lived animals. It lives ten times longer than other rodents and almost never gets cancer. Previously, scientists assumed that the cells in the body of a naked mole-rats resistant to mutations, which protects the animal from the development of malignant tumors. However, scientists at Cambridge University found the answer in their microenvironment. 

The study used 79 tissue samples (intestines, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, and skin) from 11 naked mole-rats. Experts injected into cells modified viruses affecting cell DNA, which led to mutations and cancer. This method is widely used to stimulate the development of tumors in mice and rats: it is effective both when exposed to cells in a test tube and when injected directly into the body.

The injection of mutagen viruses into the body of naked mole-rats did not result in tumor development. However, as it turned out, the virus causes mutations and helps to turn cells into cancers. Having analyzed the results of the study, the scientists concluded: it is not the features of the cells themselves that make naked mole-rats resistant to cancer, but the uniqueness of their microenvironment.

A microenvironment means the system that surrounds each cell, including different types of molecules, immune cells, proteins, etc. According to experts, the microenvironment does not protect cells from mutations leading to cancer but helps to block the tumor process at the initial stages. 

- The results were unexpected for us and completely changed our understanding of cancer resistance in naked mole-rats, - said one of the senior authors of the study, Dr. Walid Khaled. - If we can identify the immune system functions of these animals and the mechanisms by which they stop the development of cancer, we can develop measures to prevent this disease in humans. 

July 3, 2020, 10:37 a.m.

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