Naked mole rats are hairless, blind, underground dwellers that are remarkably impervious to cancer. But why you ask? Well, researchers at the University of Rochester asked that same question and it turns out a cluster of genes, called the INK4 locus, is the answer. This locus, also found in humans and mice, uses that cluster to carry instructions, or encode, for several cancer fighting proteins. It was already known that these proteins, known as p15INK4b, p16INK4a, and ARF, were good at stopping stressed or mutated cells from dividing but when a student researcher attempted to clone the protein p16 from a naked mole rat he noted the presence of a fourth protein, now known as pALTINK4a/b which was as good if not better and stopping division.
After screening both mice and humans for the protein, researchers noted it is highly unlikely we are carriers but better understanding the INK4 locus and why it is the most commonly mutated gene locus in cancer and other diseases like atherosclerosis, the better we can understand how to control the cancer. Click below for more on this science.