The naked mole rat may look like the terrifying, skinned rat demon, but for scientists it is an essential piece of organic life. These strange creatures are, so far, the only ones to be completely immune to cancer and scientists have long searched for the reasons for this.
Recently, scientists at the University of Rochester discovered a specific gene which they think is key to the entire process of keeping the rodents healthy. Bryan Nelson writes:
Dubbed ‘p16’, the gene works by making cells “claustrophobic”, essentially keeping them from replicating when too many crowd together. Since cancer is caused by runaway cell growth, the gene acts as a fail-safe mechanism, preventing cell proliferation from cascading out of control.
Of course, this is all good and well, but how does it affect us. The researchers Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov respond: â?? if the effect of p16 can be simulated in humans, we might have a way to halt cancer before it starts.â?
Elizabeth Pennisi, at Wired.com, indicates how scientists came upon studying naked mole rats and confirming their non-cancer lives. Usually rodents only live for a few years, but naked mole rats can live for as a long as 30 years. This is interesting given that the longer creatures live the greater their chance of getting diseases. But, says Pennisi:
because naked mole rats have a unique social structure, with one queen that produces all the young for an underground colony full of helpers, they have been the subject of long-term research. Thanks to these studies, scientists know for sure that this species doesnâ??t get cancer.
Naked mole rats, therefore, live much like ants or bees, rather than most rodents. This curious social structure was sufficient to begin long study of these strange, underground and incredibly ugly creatures. The longitudinal studies allowed researchers to uncover this remarkable fact about its aging and cancer-immunity.
But ugly creatures arenâ??t just curing cancer, theyâ??re also curing darkness. The angler fish, the notoriously hideous and terrifying deep-sea fish with a giant jaw, has a protruding growth called an esca, which it uses as a lure. Hanging over the front of its face, the esca glows in the pitch-black of the deep ocean, acting as a lure for the fishâ??s prey.
The esca glows thanks to a symbiotic relationship with bacteria, which glow due to multiplication. This natural technology can be used in our homes, thus negating the need for electricity. Technology industry research has begun seriously investigating the possible uses and benefits of using biotechnology rather than traditional, electricity-draining technology.
What does this tell us about science
In the end, the point is the source of our advancement, our science, our future shouldnâ??t depend on how much we like the look of a creature, of how ugly the source of information or data is. Isaac Newton, for example, had a notoriously â??uglyâ? personality and was nasty to most people. Imagine we discarded the most incredible mind of the last few centuries because we didnâ??t like his dinner etiquette? Thus, sources donâ??t matter to science: evidence and the truth of its data does.
Terrence Stoker began studying the ocean thanks to his previous job promoting houses for sale Seapoint, Cape Town, South Africa. Living so close to the incredible waters of Southern Africa allowed him ample time to investigate the benefits of the incredible creatures below the waters.