Can Humans Imitate Mole Rats (Who Never Get Cancer)?

Despite having 30-year lifespans, mole rats are known in scientific circles to be cancer proof. Researchers think their resistance is thanks to tissue very rich with high molecular weight hyaluronan (HMW-HA).

What's the Latest Development?


Despite having 30-year lifespans, mole rats (hairless subterranean rodents) are known in scientific circles to be cancer proof. Now, researchers think these rodents are protected from cancer because their tissues are very rich with high molecular weight hyaluronan (HMW-HA). "When HMW-HA was removed [from the moles' tissue], the cells became susceptible to tumors, confirming that the chemical did play a role in making naked mole rats cancer-proof. ... In addition, naked mole rats were very slow at recycling HMW-HA, which contributed to the accumulation of the chemical in the animals’ tissues."

What's the Big Idea?

Scientists now plan to treat mice with HMW-HA to discover whether other species benefit from increased levels of cancer-resistant tissue. Researchers behind the current study also hope that human trials can begin in due course: "There’s indirect evidence that HMW-HA would work in people," said Seluanov. "It’s used in anti-wrinkle injections and to relieve pain from arthritis in knee joints, without any adverse effects. Our hope is that it can also induce an anti-cancer response." The research was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Ellison Medical Foundation.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

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