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Stress 'defence' may be secret to long life

9th October 2006

A new study has challenged the widely held belief that oxidative stress is a major contributor to the aging process.

The US study, presented to the American Physiological Society conference, found that the long-lived naked mole rat, which lives for three years, in fact shows much higher levels of oxidative stress than the short-lived mouse, which has a lifespan of just 28 days.

Oxidative stress is a term describing oxidation (the conversion of air to oxygen in the body) that occurs because of an unusual occurrence, such as being placed in a hostile environment, rather than as a result of normal breathing.

"All of the classical measures of oxidative stress are higher in the mole rat," said

"Given that naked mole-rats live an order of magnitude longer than predicted based on their body size, our findings strongly suggest that mechanisms other than attenuated oxidative stress may explain the impressive longevity of this species."

Scientists are now speculating that it could be the naked mole rat's ability to defend itself from periods of intense oxidative stress, rather than its avoidance of such situations, that allow it to live so long.