Rodents-superheroes: naked mole rats do not feel many types of pain

New research shows that several species of African naked mole develops a supernatural ability to endure certain types of pain, including discomfort caused by acid, chili pepper, and hot mustard. This news may ultimately lead to an advanced pain therapy in humans. Well, naked mole rats may not be the most beautiful creatures on the planet, they are definitely cool.

Naked mole rat is not afraid of pain. Why?

The famous naked mole rat, possessing the ability to resist cancer, the lack of oxygen and, apparently, even death itself, is an extremely interesting object for research. But among naked mole rats is particularly interesting specimen. A new study, which appeared recently in Science, shows that African naked mole rats acquired tolerance to certain types of pain. Genetic endowments allow these underground rodents thrive in other inhabited places, such as holes, infested with poisonous ants.

A new study conducted by Charleena by Debus and OLE Eigenbrod from the Center for molecular medicine. Max delbrück in Germany, is a continuation of the work which was carried out on naked mole rats in 2008. Previous research conducted by Thomas Park of the University of Illinois in Chicago showed that goals diggers can stand the pain caused by acid and capsaicin — the substance that chili pepper burns.

Park also participated in the new study, the scientists tested several rodents in sensitivity to pain, including nine species of African naked mole rat and the common mouse. They wanted to study the molecular factors responsible for the immunity to pain, in the hope that this understanding may lead to the development of highly efficient analgesics for people.

In the study, scientists injected three drugs that commonly cause a burning sensation in humans and other animals. It is important to note that these substances were chosen spontaneously — with these things “rabbits” face constantly. In particular, naked mole rats were exposed to diluted hydrochloric acid (a toxic analog of an ant), capsaicin (the ingredient often gets into food for rodents) and allylisothiocyanate (AITC, irritant, which is found in the roots, which feed on naked mole rats; tastes like mustard is wasabi). Debus describes these substances as all-natural and do not have long-term toxic properties. Experiments approved by the ethics Commission in Germany, South Africa and Chicago.

During the behavioral assessment of pain small amounts of these substances were injected into the paws of animals. Rodents feel uncomfortable, licking or lifting their paws, and the process lasted about five minutes. Animalsthat do not perceive pain, carried on as normal. For example, digging and interested in the environment.

A total of three non-related, species naked mole rats tolerated acid, as if it was not. Two species showed insensitivity to capsaicin. Another view showed a unique genetic adaptation to allylisothiocyanate.

“Most likely, the animals acquired this remarkable trait to adapt to life in a particular environment,” says Debus. “A case in which naked mole rat shares a hole with poisonous ants, is a perfect example of how the environment shapes evolution in the long term.”