Voelcker Academy

Research Symposium 2010


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Neil Klein

The Damaraland Mole-rat, A New Long-lived Biomedical Research Model-Mechanisms of Stress Resistance and Maintenance of Cellular Stability

Neil Klein

Mentor: Dr. Rochelle Buffenstein

Damaraland mole-rats (DMRs, Fukomys damarensis), are a new animal model for biomedical and biogerontological research. These strictly subterranean eusocial rodents and are found from the red Kalahari sands of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. DMRs show multiple adaptations needed to survive, including tolerance to low oxygen and resistance to various toxins (such as heavy metals) present in soil. Living in sealed burrows underground protects them from many causes of death such as predation and extreme climatic conditions (such as high/low temperatures) and not surprisingly these animals have evolved extended longevity, living six times longer than similar sized rats. The DMR is giving scientists valuable insights into evolution, aging, understanding pain receptors, oxygen deprivation injuries, and new cures and resistance to diseases, cancer, and toxins and as such is an important novel animal model for biomedical research.