CITY UNI HOPE IN WAR ON CANCER; Scientists in rodent tests.
A DESERT dwelling rat could hold the key in the battle against cancer, according to scientists in Liverpool.
A team from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Integrative Biology have successfully mapped the genome of the naked mole rat.
The desert dwelling rodent is native to East Africa and is resistant to cancer.
And despite living in some of the harshest environments on earth, the mammal, can live for up to thirty years in an extensive network of underground burrows.
Unlocking the mystery of the naked mole rat's DNA will help scientists understand why cancers develop and spread and help them better understand the aging process and the complications that come with growing old.
Dr Joao Pedro Magalhaes, from the Institute of Integrative Biology, said: "The naked mole rat has fascinated scientists for many years but it wasn't until a few years ago that we discovered that it could live for such a long period of time.
"It is not much bigger than a mouse, which normally lives up to four years, and yet this particular underground rodent lives for three decades in good health.
"It is an interesting example of how much we still have to learn about the mechanisms of ageing."
Early studies show the naked mole rat may be able to produce cells with anti-tumour capabilities.
Dr Magalhaes added: "We aim to use the naked mole rat genome to understand the level of resistance it has to disease, particularly cancer, as this might give us more clues as to why some animals and humans are more prone to disease than others.
"With this work we want to establish the naked mole rat as the first model of resistance to chronic diseases of ageing."
The scientists at the University of Liverpool have been working with a team at Genome Analysis Centre in Norwich.
The work is part of an project to provide an online database on the life history of more than 4,000 animal species to better understand the ageing process.
HOPEFUL: The naked mole rat could provide a cancer cure