Naked mole rats may look like wrinkly skin sacks, but they have some pretty bizarre superpowers, including a total immunity to cancer.
Now researchers have found that, apparently, these animals also don’t age – their chances of dying do not increase as they get older.
“To me this is the most exciting data I’ve ever gotten,” lead researcher Rochelle Buffenstein of Google’s anti-ageing company Calico told Science. “It goes against everything we know in terms of mammalian biology.”
Buffenstein has been studying naked mole rats for over 30 years, and has carefully documented every death of an animal in her care.
Based on their size, their expected lifespan in a lab is about 6 years. But some live to be over 30 years old, and even remain able to breed.
“Our research demonstrates that naked mole rats do not age in the same manner as other mammals, and in fact show little to no signs of ageing, and their risk of death does not increase even at 25 times past their time to reproductive maturity,” Buffenstein said.
It’s not known why naked mole rats are so good at living. A 2009 study proposed that there are several causes – stable proteins that unfold less than seen in mouse models, and less oxidation than is seen in other mammals.