Researchers trying to find cures for cancer find naked mole rats rather interesting. Not only are these animals long-lived by rodent standards, they are also resistant to the development of cancer. By long-lived, we are talking up to 30 years! A team of researchers from Hokkaido University and Keio University in Japan have now isolated stem cells from the skin of naked mole rats and induced them to revert back to pluripotent stem cells, the type capable of developing into any tissue in the body. The problem researchers experience when working with these cells from other animals is that they can become tumors after they are transplanted.
Stem cells from naked mole rats are different. Unlike transplanted pluripotent stem cells from humans and mice, cells transplanted from naked mole rats do not develop tumors. Through further research, the team discovered that a gene responsible for suppressing tumor growth stays active in the stem cells from naked mole rats whereas it is suppressed in cells from mice and humans. In addition, they found that naked mole rats have a dysfunctional gene that in mice causes tumors to develop.
The hope is that this exciting research will lead to advancements in stem cell therapy that will make the process safer by avoiding tumor growth as well as perhaps lead to advancements in cancer therapy.
Miyawaki S, Kawamura Y, Oiwa Y, Shimizu A, Hachiya T, Bono H, Koya I, Okada Y, Kimura T, Tsuchiya Y, Suzuki S, Onishi N, Kuzumaki N, Matsuzaki Y, Narita M, Ikeda E, Okanoya K, Seino K, Saya H, Okano H, Miura K. Tumour resistance in induced pluripotent stem cells derived from naked mole-rats. Nature Communications. 7:11471, 2016. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11471