The electric mole rat acid test

Research suggests secret of creatures’ imperviousness to feeling the burn

2:02pm, December 15, 2011

When life gives naked mole rats lemons, the wrinkled, buck-toothed rodents probably don’t care. They are impervious to the sting of acid.

But scientists in Berlin are onto the secret of the social rodents’ acid insensitivity. Naked mole rats’ acid sensors work just fine, but a protein responsible for relaying messages about acid’s presence to the nervous system is easily blocked by the same positively charged hydrogen ions that lend substances acidity, researchers report in the Dec. 16 Science. The discovery may give researchers clues about where to target drugs that could relieve pain associated with inflammation.

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