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Naked Mole Rats Not Susceptible To Cancer

Message circulating via social media claims that naked mole rats are immune to cancer and that scientists have identified the molecule that provides this immunity.

Naked Mole Rat

© Endredi

Brief Analysis
The information in the message is true. The results of a recent scientific study indicate that naked mole rats are not susceptible to cancer due to a complex sugar that helps keep their cells from forming tumors.

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Naked Mole Rats

Naked mole rats are completely immune to cancer - and now scientists have discovered the molecule that gives them that immunity. This could eventually lead to treatments for humans.

Detailed Analysis

According to this message, which is circulating via social media websites, naked mole rats do not get cancer. The message claims that scientists have now discovered the molecule that prevents the rodents from getting cancers and suggests that the discovery could eventually lead to human cancer treatments. The message features an image of one of the rodents in all its naked glory.

The claims in the message are factual. It is true that naked mole rats are not susceptible to cancer. It is also true that a recent study has identified a complex sugar thought to be the biological mechanism that prevents cancer forming in this species of rodent. A June 20, 2013 article on The Scientist website notes:

Cancer often kills rodents, but naked mole-rats, which can live longer than 30 years, are not susceptible to the disease. A study published yesterday (June 19) in Nature suggests a mechanism for the phenomenon: a sugar in the spaces between naked mole-rat cells appears to lower the density of cell growth and prevent tumors from forming.

Wired concurs, noting in another June 20 article:

Although they are quite ugly and confined to a life underground, naked mole rats have at least one attribute that other animals, even humans, might aspire to: They don’t get cancer. Now, researchers have discovered that the secret to this rodent’s good health is a complex sugar that helps keeps cells from clumping together and forming tumors.
The discovery is certainly an interesting and encouraging one and will likely lead to further studies. But, of course, it is unclear at this early stage if the sugar will prove to be of benefit for human cancer treatment or prevention.

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Last updated: June 21, 2013
First published: June 21, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
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