Naked Mole-Rats Can Survive Without Oxygen

Posted: Apr 21 2017, 3:49am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 

Naked Mole-Rats Can Survive Without Oxygen
Ignore the whiskers and teeth -- these are plants. Credit:Thomas Park/UIC
  • Naked Mole-Rats Can Survive without Oxygen for 18 Minutes by Turning into Plants
 

It seems that naked mole-rats show weird behavior by surviving without oxygen for a time span of 18 minutes. They almost seem to turn into plants when they do this.

When they are cut off from a regular oxygen supply, naked mole-rats survive by metabolizing fructose in the same manner as plants tend to do so. This valuable research effort was reported in a scientific journal.

By understanding how these strange animals do this, treatment for such people who suffer from oxygen deprivation could be made a cinch. These include victims of heart attack and stroke.

This happens to be the most recent discovery regarding the naked mole-rat which is indeed a curious creature. It is cold-blooded, lives much longer than other rodents its size and shape, very rarely gets cancer and is even immune to certain types of pain that debilitates other creatures.

In human beings, lab mice and other mammals, when the oxygen supply is cut off, the brain cells become parched and the organism soon hits the wall (metaphorically speaking) and dies. Yet naked mole-rats have a reserve system that allows them to thrive in this emergency situation. 

Their brain cells begin using fructose as a fuel. This fruit sugar combustion creates energy anaerobically through a metabolic pathway that is normally used by plants.

The researchers introduced naked mole-rats to low oxygen conditions in the lab. These naked mole-rats released large quantities of fructose into their bloodstream.

This fructose was furthermore led by certain metabolic pathways to the brain cells. Thus the naked mole-rat seems to have made such an arrangement in its body that it shows super-tolerance to a low oxygen situation. 

At such oxygen deprivation levels that would kill a human being within minutes, the naked mole-rat can survive for five hours. During this suspended animation of sorts, the naked mole-rat undergoes a reduction in motility, slowing down of the heart rate and shallow breathing in order to save up on energy.

This is the only known case of a mammal that uses suspended animation to survive oxygen deprivation. Naked mole-rats are even protected from pulmonary edema, which is another aspect of oxygen deprivation.

This condition also occurs in case of mountain climbers who reach great heights. It all ultimately has to do with the naked mole-rat’s metabolism. It is unique and singular among mammals. 

The findings of this study appear this week in the journal Science.

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