Researchers have discovered the chemical that makes naked mole rats cancer-proof and they believe that it could be a major breakthrough in cancer treatments. The rodents were found to be protected from cancer because their tissues are very rich with high molecular weight hyaluronan (HMW-HA).
Naked mole rats are small, hairless, subterranean rodents that have never been known to get cancer, despite having a 30-year lifespan. Their focus was HMW-HA as soon as they noticed that a gooey substance in the naked mole rat culture was clogging the vacuum pumps and tubing. Moreover, they observed that unlike the naked mole rat culture, other media containing cells from humans, mice, and guinea pigs were not viscous.
The team also identified the gene, named HAS2, responsible for making HMW-HA in the naked mole rat. Surprisingly, the naked mole rat gene was different from HAS2 in all other animals. In addition the naked mole rats were very slow at recycling HMW-HA, which contributed to the accumulation of the chemical in the animals' tissues.
The next phase of the research will be to test the effectiveness of HMW-HA in mice. If that test goes well, Seluanov and Gorbunova hope to try the chemical on human cells. The study appears in the journal Nature.
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