The naked mole rat has been labeled as being ugly, wrinkled, blind, and bucktoothed. But scientists conducting aging studies have found that the unglamorous creature may hold the key to longevity. One such scientist is Stan Braude, a lecturer in biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Braude has studied mole rats for over 25 years, 20 of them on the fields of Kenya, Africa.
A key component in the aging of any species is oxidative damage, where the cells accrue damage from poisons, toxins, and other effects. Mole rats have been found to deal with oxidative stress in pulses, due mostly to their ability to shut down their metabolism when facing hardships. Mole rats apparently can rid their body of harmful reducing agents and poisons more easily during these metabolic pulses.
"Another way to think of it is, their gross life span might be 28 years, but their metabolism is going in these short bursts so maybe the net damage is only 3 to 4 years of net use," Braude said.
Braude has observed unique traits among mole rats. For instance, he noted that mole rats routinely invade neighboring rat colonies and fight for hostile takeover, and kidnap young rats from other colonies to serve as workers in their own tunnels.