Blind mole rat may serve as 'living tumour' in cancer research

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Washington, March 5 (ANI): Studies on how blind mole rats survive very low oxygen environments can help win fight against cancer, say researchers.

American and Israeli scientists from the Universities of Illinois and Haifa have found that cellular mechanisms used by the blind mole rat to survive the very low oxygen environment of its subterranean niche are the same as those that tumours use to thrive deep in tissues.

During the study, the researchers conducted experiments in multiple groups of "dirty" mole rats and "regular" rats.

For each type of animal, a control group was exposed to normal levels of oxygen, while the experimental groups were exposed to oxygen levels ranging from 3 to 10 percent.

The researchers said that in the regular rats exposed to low levels of oxygen, the gene that becomes active to protect their bodies from low oxygen (BNIP3) was shown to be active in heart and skeletal muscles.

However, in the mole rats, it was discovered that their version of the BNIP3 gene was much more effective at helping them tolerate low levels of oxygen than the version of the gene in "regular" rats.

The researchers say that their findings suggest that the blind mole rat can serve a "living tumour" in cancer research.

Otherwise, they add, the unique gene in the blind mole rat may become a prime target for new anti-cancer drugs that can "suffocate" tumours.

A research article describing this study has been published in the FASEB Journal. (ANI)

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