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Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

The Secret to Bats' Long Lifespan?

A new study suggests that hardy proteins may be the key.

  • July 1, 2009

Two long-lived species of bats appear to have proteins that are especially resistant to stress, which may explain why they can outlive many other similar-sized mammals.

According to a press release from the FASEB Journal:

[Asish Chaudhuri, a biochemist at the VA Medical Center, in San Antonio] and colleagues made their discovery by extracting proteins from the livers of two long-lived bat species (Tadarida brasiliensis and Myotis velifer) and young adult mice and exposed them to chemicals known to cause protein misfolding. After examining the proteins, the scientists found that the bat proteins exhibited less damage than those of the mice, indicating that bats have a mechanism for maintaining proper structure under extreme stress.

Previous research covered by Technology Review suggested a similar characteristic underlying the lengthy life span of the naked mole rat, a rodent that can live for up to 30 years, compared to about 3 or 4 years for the average mouse.

The analyses showed that proteins in mole-rat cells are more resistant to unfolding, making them more stable than those of mice. The researchers also found evidence that the cells of mole rats have more efficient mechanisms for getting rid of improperly folded or oxidized proteins … The results suggest that naked mole rats can withstand oxidative damage better by keeping their proteins stable and quickly removing unfolded proteins before they can accumulate.

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