Email Print Share

"Naked Truths" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

A University of Illinois at Chicago biologist and his colleagues think the subterranean lifestyle of the naked mole-rat may hold clues to keeping brain cells alive and functioning when oxygen is scarce. The key may lie in how brain cells regulate their intake of calcium.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Naked (Sound effect: pull back shower curtain; cartoon naked mole-rat screams) Truths.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: naked mole-rat sounds) You could learn a lot from a naked mole-rat. At least that's what scientists believe at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio.

(Sound effect: naked mole-rat sounds) When you live underground in close quarters with hundreds of your fellow naked mole-rats, air is scarce. Yet these blind, hairless rodents can tolerate long periods of oxygen deprivation, much as infant humans can. The team surmised the mechanism in human babies may be the same in mole-rats and discovered that indeed it is.

Brain cells need oxygen to control their intake of calcium. Too much calcium in the cells is lethal.

(Sound effect: baby cries) A human infant is tolerant of O2 deprivation because of calcium channels in the brain cells. If oxygen is scarce, the channels close protecting the cells from calcium overdose. As we age, we lose this ability, while adult naked mole-rats hold onto it. If we could find a way to make these channels functional in adult humans, it could help prevent damage in the event of a heart attack or stroke.

The mole-rats' ability to suppress pain and even cancer might teach us a thing or two as well. Who knows? The naked mole-rat may even show us someday how to be comfortable in our own skin.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.