Naked Mole-Rats’ Anti-Cancer Gene
News May 07, 2015
Naked mole-rats are unusual in many ways as a result of adaptations to living underground, with extreme longevity and a lack of the normal signs of ageing. Their resistance to cancer has been linked to the production of a substance called high molecular mass hyaluronan (HMM-HA), and mutations in the HAS2 gene that produces it.
The researchers from Queen Mary Univ. of London sequenced the HAS2 gene in 13 similar or related mammals, combining the data with DNA sequences extracted from 57 published genomes representing all the major mammal groups. They found that while all African mole rats share some mutations in the HAS2 gene, the naked mole-rat has a unique combination.
Dr. Chris Faulkes, lead author of the paper, said: “While naked moles-rats are extreme in many aspects of their biology, we predicted that we would see similar molecular adaptations in the HAS2 gene in other mole-rats and subterranean mammals, yet they remain unique even among other mole-rats within the family.”
“However, our study has identified a number of other HAS2 gene mutations that are predicted to have a significant effect on hyaluronan production, opening up exciting new avenues of research into the pathways whereby HMM-HA prevents tumor formation.”
As genome editing technologies advance toward clinical therapies, they are raising hopes of a completely new way to treat disease. However, challenges need to be addressed before potential treatments can be widely used in patients. To tackle these challenges, the National Institutes of Health has launched the Somatic Cell Genome Editing program, which has awarded multiple grants including more than $3.6 million to assess the safety of genome editing in human cells and tissues.