Sex Makes Naked Mole Rats Live Longer
In colonies of naked mole rats-wrinkly, pink-skinned rodents with oversized front teeth that live in extensive underground tunnel systems-one special couple gets to reproduce, creating the entire next generation for the colony. For naked mole rats, procreating appears to slow aging, the exact opposite of what’s normally seen. In a new study, researchers pin down the genetic alterations that give breeding naked mole rats such long lifespans to attempt to explain how it happens. Most naked mole rats are workers charged with finding food, defending the colony and taking care of the breeding pair’s young. If a naked mole rat establishes a new colony for example, that individual will undergo a series of changes written into their genomes to become a breeder.
Martin Bens, an aging researcher at the Leibniz Institute on Aging in Jena, Germany, who led the new research, knew naked mole rat breeders lived longer than non-breeding, worker rats, but he wanted to figure out why. They took stock of how gene expression differed between a breeding pair and the rest of the naked mole rat colony. When the team analyzed the rodents’ gene expression in 10 tissues central to aging, sexual reproduction and status, they found the genes that made naked mole rats different from guinea pigs were also the genes that differentiated breeding pairs from worker rats. Genes the formation of ATP seem be upregulated in naked mole rats, while other genes related to the immune system and the ability to metabolize fats-processes associated with aging-were turned down in naked mole rats but ratcheted up in guinea pigs, the team reports Thursday in BMC Biology. In a study published back-to-back with Bens’ research, Alessandro Ori, a group leader at the Leibniz Institute on Aging, has begun to address that question by examining liver proteins in young and old naked mole rats compared to guinea pigs.
In that work, Ori and team found the livers of elderly naked mole rat livers are unique. The same molecular networks affected by aging in the naked mole rats are found in humans hinting at insights into our own longevity.
‘I cheated death and joined the Guinea Pig Club’
When Flying Officer Desmond O’Connell’s bomber plane was sent on a mission to sink the Bismarck in 1941 only to crash into a hill in flames, the 21-year-old was so badly burned his colleagues contacted his mother to make arrangements for his funeral. An observer in the back of the plane, Des, as he is known, was the last of the crew to crawl out through the cracked fuselage and was doused in petrol. The grass outside was alight and he went up in flames, burned all over but for the areas covered by his US-issue flying jacket and boots. Des was lucky enough to find his way to Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, under the care of the pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe. There, he underwent more than two years of painful experimental surgery.
Sir Archibald, realising how the badly burnt and disfigured men on his wards were struggling to adapt to everyday life, decided to give their morale a boost. Formed in June 1941 with just 39 members, by the end of the war they numbered 649. Primarily a drinking club, with social events and trips into the town, the group formed close bonds for life, while Sir Archibald developed plastic surgery techniques some of which are still in use today. Today, only 17 members of the Guinea Pig Club survive in the UK, their numbers dwindling as the men enter their mid-90s. A commemorative monument is being unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, recognising the work of Sir Archibald, who died in 1960, and the bravery of his Guinea Pigs.
Photographs of men being treated during World War Two feature these tubes, often connecting their noses with skin on their torso or arms. Modern developments including microsurgery, in which the blood vessels of a skin graft can be reattached at the new site, eliminated the need for this type of procedure. Sir Archibald’s legacy has endured, not least at the Queen Victoria Hospital, now the leading burns and reconstructive surgery centre in the south-east of England.
UTMB researchers successfully transplant bioengineered lung
GALVESTON, Texas – A research team at the University of Texas Medical Branch have bioengineered lungs and transplanted them into adult pigs with no medical complication. In 2014, Joan Nichols and Joaquin Cortiella from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston were the first research team to successfully bioengineer human lungs in a lab. A support scaffold was created using a lung from an unrelated animal that was treated using a special mixture of sugar and detergent to eliminate all cells and blood in the lung, leaving only the scaffolding proteins or skeleton of the lung behind. The cells used to produce each bioengineered lung came from a single lung removed from each of the study animals. The lung scaffold was placed into a tank filled with a carefully blended cocktail of nutrients and the animals’ own cells were added to the scaffold following a carefully designed protocol or recipe.
The bioengineered lungs were grown in a bioreactor for 30 days prior to transplantation. Animal recipients were survived for 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after transplantation, allowing the research team to examine development of the lung tissue following transplantation and how the bioengineered lung would integrate with the body. All of the pigs that received a bioengineered lung stayed healthy. As early as two weeks post-transplant, the bioengineered lung had established the strong network of blood vessels needed for the lung to survive. Nichols said that the focus of the study was to learn how well the bioengineered lung adapted and continued to mature within a large, living body.
They didn’t evaluate how much the bioengineered lung provided oxygenation to the animal. The researchers said that with enough funding, they could grow lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances within five to 10 years.