Naked Mole-Rats Help Unlock the Mysteries of Infertility

Scientists interested in treating infertility in humans are turning to an unlikely source for inspiration: naked mole-rats. The rats--actually more closely related to porcupines and chinchillas than moles or rats--live in large colonies much like ants. In these colonies, one dominant female called the "queen" maintains a monopoly on breeding rights by constantly bullying the other female workers and soldiers. The stress of the bullying brings on a suppression of certain fertility hormones in the victims, causing them to be infertile. In a turn-of-events that gives hope to every whipped boyfriend in the world, this infertility is not permanent; when the queen dies workers and soldiers quickly become fertile again, and one takes the place of the queen, bullying all the others into being barren.

Let them eat cake! Naked mole-rat queen

Scientists and doctors have long traced the negative effects of stress on the fertility of human patients, but have struggled to understand exactly how and why it takes place. Chris Faulkes, a biologist at the University of London, hopes that studying the unusual behavior of the naked mole-rats will shed light on the process and hopefully lead someday to a cure.

"Similar things might be happening in humans,,Aeu Faulkes said, as quoted in the Times of India, ,AeuIt,Aeos likely that it is all acting on similar pathways in the brain."

No word yet on how human insults affect the mole-rats...

Naked mole-rats live in elaborate tunnel systems in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, often spending their entire lives underground without ever setting foot on the surface of the earth. They are true vegetarians, eating the tubers that grow into the tunnels of their subterranean layers.


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I love the caption under the mole rat queen.