11 May 2012

The secret of longevity of naked diggers is in the brain

For many years, scientists have been trying to unravel the secret of the longevity of a naked digger – a rodent that usually lives for 25-30 years, during which its activity, bone condition, reproductive potential and cognitive function practically do not deteriorate. (The animal in the picture is much older than the 21-year-old Cornell University student. :)

Researchers from Texas and Tel Aviv Universities, working under the guidance of Professor Rochelle Buffenstein, believe that they have found the answer. They found that naked diggers are characterized by the highest content of growth factor NRG-1 (neuregulin-1) in the cerebellum among rodents. Moreover, a high level of this protein, necessary for the normal functioning of the brain, remains in the brain of rodents throughout life.

The Barshop Institute of Longevity and Aging Studies, part of the University of Texas, has the largest colony of naked diggers in the United States, consisting of 2,000 rodents living in a system of tubes and cavities in humid conditions simulating the natural environment of their underground habitat.

Naked diggers have a very peculiar appearance: naked wrinkled pinkish skin, tiny eyes and long protruding front teeth. Their natural habitat is the Horn of Africa (the region of Northeast Africa). The innate ability of these rodents to resist cancer and maintain the integrity of protein molecules, despite the effects of free radicals, makes them an ideal animal model for studying aging and other biomedical research.

The authors compared the levels and dynamics of changes in the concentration of NRG-1 throughout life in the cerebellum of representatives of seven rodent species, including mice, guinea pigs, naked diggers and Damarland diggers.
In naked diggers, the NRG-1 level was monitored from the first day of life until the age of 26. The maximum life expectancy for the remaining six rodent species ranged from 3 to 19 years.

The function of the cerebellum is to coordinate movements and maintain balance. It is known that in humans, the level of NRG-1 in the cerebellum decreases with age. Researchers have suggested that in long-lived animals, the concentration of this growth factor in the cerebellum will be maintained at the highest level.

Indeed, among individuals of each species, centenarians demonstrated the highest levels of NRG-1 throughout their lives. However, the absolute leaders, as the authors suggested, turned out to be naked diggers.

Previously, scientists have already studied various characteristics of the physiology of naked diggers, demonstrating the integrity of the protein composition of liver cells, kidneys and muscle tissue. The latest study revealed for the first time a factor involved in maintaining the functioning of the rodent brain. The authors believe that the existence of a pronounced correlation between the level of this protective factor and the maximum life expectancy indicates the existence of a previously unknown promising direction for studying the mechanisms of aging.

Article by Yael H. Edrey et al. Sustained high levels of neuregulin-1 in the longest-lived rodents; a key determinant of rodent longevity is published in the journal Aging Cell.

Evgeniya Ryabtseva
Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio:
Long-lived rodents have high levels of brain-protecting factor.


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