Scientists Find Naked Mole Rats Have High Levels of NRG-1 in Their Brains

Posted on May 11, 2012

Naked Mole Rat at Barshop


Scientists have found that naked mole rats contain high levels of Neuregulin-1 (NRG-1) in the cerebellum. Naked mole rats are known for living long, healthy lives of 25 to 30 years. They show little decline in activity, bone health, reproductive capacity and cognitive ability during their lives. They are hairless burrowing rodents with wrinkled pinkish skin, tiny eyes and protruding front teeth. Their native habitat is the Horn of Africa. The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio's Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies has about 2,000 naked mole rats - the largest colony in the U.S.

Little is known about the mechanisms that allow naked mole rats to delay the aging process and live so long. Scientists from the United States and Israel believe that high levels of NRG-1 in the animal's brain may be a clue to the naked mole rat's remarkable ability to age with little deterioration.

Yael Edrey, doctoral student at The Barshop Institute, says, "Naked mole rats have the highest level of a growth factor called NRG-1 in the cerebellum. Its levels are sustained throughout their life, from development through adulthood."

Edrey is the lead author of research that compared lifelong NRG-1 levels across seven species of rodents, from mice and guinea pigs to blind mole rats and Damaraland mole rats. NRG-1 levels were monitored in naked mole rats at different ages ranging from 1 day to 26 years. The other six rodent species have maximum life spans of three to 19 years. Among each of the species, the longest-lived members exhibited the highest lifelong levels of NRG-1. The naked mole rat had the most robust and enduring supply.

Edrey said, "In both mice and in humans, NRG-1 levels go down with age."

The researchers findings were published here in Aging Cell.

Photo: UT Health Science Center San Antonio