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Google believes the secret to longevity may lie in naked mole rats

Google believes the secret to longevity may lie in naked mole rats
For centuries, the mystery of aging has plagued mankind, but not naked mole rats. Calico Labs has received $1.5 billion from Google to find out what humans can learn from the strange little rodents.

Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth in the 1500s may be mythical, but Google is entirely serious about its new research funding. Calico Labs, short for the California Life Company, is home to a large number of the naked mole rats, valued for their 30-year-long lifespans, which dwarf those of similar animals like mice that typically live for less than two years.

The difference between a mouse’s lifespan and a naked mole rat’s is so stark that Calico Labs has partnered with Maine’s Jackson Laboratory to study the molecular signature of aging in the blood, feces or urine of 1,000 mice for seven years.

Brian Kennedy, a Buck Institute scientist with Calico Labs, explained to the MIT Technology Review that scientific knowledge of a person’s “biological” age is so limited, that finding biomarkers of age in any area, even feces, could prove useful.

While the $1.5 billion from Google’s parent company, Alphabet, will not only go towards the naked mole rat and mice, they will chew up a decent chunk of the budget. According to MIT Technology Review, feeding the mice alone costs $3 million.

Kennedy told the Technology Review, “I think they believe we need a broader grasp on the biology of aging. They recognize it can’t possibly be simple.

However, housing a naked mole rat colony is no simple feat, either. Their three-decade lifetimes mean studying their aging biology could take just as long. But for now, Calico Labs is focusing on sequencing the naked mole rat genome to learn how they cheat the aging process and whether their propensity to eat fecal matter has anything to do with it.