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Blind mole-rats are loaded with anticancer genes

Rodent's genome reveals secrets of surviving underground

2:13pm, June 3, 2014

BLIND AS A MOLE-RAT  The genome of the blind mole-rat helps explain why the animals lack eyes, live long lives and are champion cancer fighters. The genome also reveals that the rodent is more closely related to Chinese hamsters than to naked mole-rats, from which its lineage split from about 71 million years ago. 

Blind mole-rats aren’t exactly lookers. But the long-lived subterranean rodents do have other charms, including pronounced abilities to fight cancer (SN: 12/15/12, p. 12) and withstand low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide.

Now, an international group of researchers has compiled the animal’s genetic instruction book, giving a glimpse into how the rodents perform these feats. The genome of the blind mole-rat, Spalax galili contains more than 22,000 genes, the team reports June 3 in Nature Communications. That’s about the same number of genes as humans have.

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