4 min read

This Naked Creature Could Hold The Secret To Living Forever

"It goes against everything we know."

A creature who lives underground in almost total darkness holds the secret to aging incredibly well — even if he doesn't look like it.

The pink and wrinkly naked mole rat — who is neither a rat nor a mole — is being studied by people who are increasingly interested in unlocking the secret to living much longer. 

Irritated naked mole rat
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The naked mole rat lives in underground colonies in Africa and is being studied by "longevity entrepreneurs," people in the tech industry who are trying to figure out how to use technology to extend human life as long as possible.

Naked mole rat peeking out of hole
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The naked mole rat appears to have several superpowers: The animal can survive for as long as 18 minutes without oxygen; the animal also hardly ever gets cancer. Scientists expected that naked mole rats wouldn't live past 6 years in captivity — instead, even in unnatural conditions, they can live past age 30.

Earlier this year, a biologist who works at Calico, a biotech company launched by Google in San Francisco, California, discovered data that suggests that as naked mole rats age, their chance of dying actually slightly decreases. (For every other mammal, the opposite is true.)

“This is the most exciting data I’ve ever gotten,” Rochelle Buffenstein, the biologist at Calico, told Science. “It goes against everything we know in terms of mammalian biology.”

Naked mole rat eating
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For the naked mole rat, a long life underground in complete darkness is what nature intended. But some people worry that pursuing longer and longer lives through technology is distancing us from nature and arguably one of the most important things that makes us human: our own finitude.

"The appreciation of our own lives has much to do with the ever-increasing awareness of its relative brevity," Allison Arieff wrote in a New York Times op-ed. "It is this — an awareness and acceptance of our own mortality — that makes us human. And it is the impetus, I’d argue, for living our lives to the fullest."