The shaved rat or naked mole rat is one of the most fascinating animals on Earth, It is the only mammal that lives in underground colonies, like ants, with a queen and a lot of soldiers and workers who live to serve her this East African rodent is also an object of desire for scientists because of its extreme longevity, since it lives 10 times more than a mouse and, above all, hardly develops cancer.
Today a study delves into another of the known attributes of the nude mole rat ( Heterocephalus glaber ): its apparent insensitivity to pain.
Previous studies had discovered that these animals seem oblivious to acid burns that would make many other mammals jump out of pain, which seems an adaptation to the tunnels they inhabit, extremely acidic due to the concentration of carbon dioxide.
These animals seem oblivious to acid burns that would make many other mammals jump out of pain
The new work, published in Cell Reports , has discovered a small genetic variation of the ratopin that differentiates it from mice and other mammals. The change is in a receiver known as and it functions as a kind of lock. In the presence of a burn or in inflammatory processes, a protein known as nerve growth factor that fits like a key is secreted. When the lock is opened, it triggers a process that ends up activating sensory neurons to send pain signals to the brain.
The researchers have compared the sequence of the gene of the ratopin with that of 26 other mammals and have shown that there is a difference of up to three basic units of DNA between them. That small difference is responsible for the sensory circuit to burns and inflammation in the ratopín is much less active, and explains its apparent insensitivity.