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Have you ever seen a picture of the naked mole rat? It is nowhere near to the cute pictures of rats that are available on the internet. Rather, it’s smashed face, two buck teeth, tubular body and hairless skin will make you feel sick. But, that little beast is completely resistant to cancer. Can you believe it?
How on earth, the ugly looking naked mole rat is not prone to cancer? A befitting answer to this question is the presence of a super sugar. It is called the high-molecular-mass Hyaluronan. This particular super sugar secreted from the cell of naked mole rat actually prevents the formation of a tumour by the cell. The researchers are trying to tap in the super sugar to find out whether they will be equally effective in the prevention of cancer. They will also look into the life extension possibilities of the humans.
This is not the first time that rat is being used as a model for research rather most of the experiments are carried out on the rats and mice. It is mainly due to the fact they have a very short life span. Apart from naked mole rat, almost all other species of rat lives for a maximum of four years, but the African subterranean rodent has a life span of 30 years and more. Still, it has been able to keep itself cancer free.
In order to make sure that HMM-HA is the main reason behind the absence of cancer in naked mole rat, scientists removed that super sugar from their body and soon they became vulnerable to tumours.
The HMM-HA is also present in the human body in the form of lubricant and it is put to use in the anti-wrinkle skin care products. The same super sugar is used for treating arthritis too. The sugar polymer present in naked mole rat is 5 times larger than that of human or mouse.
The researchers are trying to get to the root cause behind the absence of cancer in naked mole rat. If they are able to figure out the exact logic behind that then it will help them in developing safe cancer treatment for the humans.
The special type of hyaluronan found in the naked mole rat’s body is of high molecular mass. So, it doesn’t allow the tumour formation between the cells. Though the study has revealed this magical theory, still a lot of research needs to be done before borrowing this mechanism from the naked mole rat.
Till date, the experiments of this mechanism on human are very limited, but scientists believe that there is a thin ray of hope. In one of the experiments, HAS2 synthesis protein of mole rat was over articulated in the cell tissue of the humans and when it was done, they witnessed that HMM-HA secretion began from the cell. It is a very positive result for the experiment, and the scientists are prodding further to realize the dream of inventing some avenues for the prevention of cancer in the human body.
The study on the mole rat revealed that their stem cells are continuously expressing the gene which acts as tumour suppressing agent in their body. But, this gene is suppressed in the human body, whereas they are highly active in the naked mole rat induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
What the future holds for cancer patients, still needs to be answered, but the scientists are putting in all the effort to come up with some positive result. They are hopeful that they will be able to understand the whole mechanism and develop treatments of cancer that are comparatively safer.