Wired UK – Blind mole rats don’t get cancer, and geneticists have worked out why — their cells kill themselves with a poisonous protein when they multiply too much.
The two species examined by the University of Rochester’s Vera Gorbunovaand her team were the Judean Mountains blind mole rat (Spalax judaei) and the Golan Heights blind mole rat (Spalax golani), which live within small regions of Israel. The team took cells from the rodents and put them in a culture that would force them to multiply beyond what would happen within the animals’ bodies. For the first seven to 20 multiplcations, things looked fine, but beyond 20 multiplications the cells started rapidly dying off.
Examining the cells as they died revealed that they had started to produce a protein, IFN-β, that caused them to undergo “massive necrotic cell death within three days”. In effect, once the cells had detected that they had multiplied beyond a certain point, they killed themselves.
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