The naked mole rat may unlock the secrets of cancer.
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Mole rats die from any number of natural causes, but cancer is not one of them: The rodent’s hormones produce a chemical that scientists say protects the rodent from cancer throughout its lifetime. And a new University of Rochester study suggests that experiments to extract and study this chemical could eventually find ways to use it to guard humans from cancer, as well.
The chemical is a sugar called hyaluronan, and all animal species have it. It exists between cells and helps to hold them together. But as the Rochester study notes, the mole rats have exceptionally large quantities of it, and theirs has a few exceptional properties, including much greater density than that found in other species, including humans.