What do they have to do with cancer? – In “Through the Looking Glass,” written in 1871, Lewis Carroll gives his heroine Alice a ridiculous Victorian-style poem to memorize call “Jabberwocky.” One of the lines in it is: “And the mome raths outgrabe.” Did he mean MOLE RATS? It turns out these fascinating creatures, who live their entire lives underground, have incredible longevity AND do not get cancer. Is hiding underground (the way some people think that aliens do) the solution to our problems?
Mole rats are mammals naked creatures about the size of a mouse that live underground all their lives, along with their queen and her harem of males (!), worker moles (who search for food) and soldiers to guard their tunnel system. Their nests have the social structure of an ants’ nest or beehive. Among their many peculiarities are features that could, if understood, be of great relevance to human health and longevity.
Their life span is of extraordinary length for a rodent. Mice live a couple of years but mole rats can reach the venerable age of 28. The long life is probably a consequence of their protected existence. Mice have a short life span because they have many predators. Better to breed fast and young than prepare for an old age none will never live to see. Gray squirrels, on the other hand, have fewer enemies and can live for more than 20 years.
Mice are often used for drug testing because they are genetically very much like human beings. Their immune systems are similar as well: Mice live a couple of years, which is a long time in the mouse world. But mole rats live to age 28, which is an extraordinary long life in terms small rodents. Gray squirrels only live about 20 years.
Mice as used for experiments so often because they are very prone to cancer. In fact, almost 90% percent of them die of tumors (only about 23% of humans die from cancer). But the mole rat has the best success against that dreaded disease: It doesn’t get it at all, probably because their cells have a double system that helps impede tumor growth, compared with the single immune system in human cells.
Meanwhile, the loneliness and depression that cancer patients feel means they’re less likely to recover. Social isolation makes the disease more deadly. (NOTE: Anne Strieber wore this baseball cap at our recent Stargate Conference. She has read the paper she presented there just for subscribers).
Female mice that became stressed because they were separated from their mothers developed more and larger tumors than their more contented sisters. BBC News quotes researcher Oliver Childs as saying, “It is now widely recognized that stress plays a part in illness, but no one really knows how much.”
In the October 27 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Wade quotes cancer researcher Vera Gorbunova (who is studying the mole rats) as saying, “To understand human longevity and cancer, it’s important to study species other than mice. I think this is the beginning of a long journey.”
This reminds us of the long journey towards understanding the soul and UFOs and in all 3 cases, let’s hope we get there soon!
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Art credit: Dreamstime.com
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