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Can naked mole rats solve autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia? || EXPERIMENTALS: Moles (part 1)

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 Biology   |   Health   |   Science
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Naked mole rats look like walking steamed spring rolls (with tails). But, beneath their translucent skin, they have a 35 million year old superpower: they are super carbon dioxide breathers (trust us, they’re joining the Avengers). And it’s not like they simply tolerate CO2—the way you might suffer through the exhaust pouring from a tailpipe. They need it. And, they need a lot of it. Imagine an eight-by-eight elevator packed with 1,100 people—that’s the level of CO2 a nest full of mole rats need in order to survive. The question is: HOW? Because naked mole rats are mammals just like us. It should be toxic to them, but... it isn’t. It’s actually had a ton of benefits for them: CO2 has shaped their eusocial, insect-like society and might explain their long lives and resistance to cancer. The answer to all of this lies in a genetic mutation. It's a genetic mutation only two mammals have: mole rats and humans. And, unlocking that code in these little hairless wonders could one day solve certain forms of autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia in us. Dr. Dan McCloskey and his colony of 300 naked mole rats at CUNY College of Staten Island are trying to figure out this naked mole rat sized mystery.

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*This is part one of a two part EXPERIMENTALS episode on "moles." Part two (coming soon) is about THE MOLE—as in 6.02214076×10^23, the unit in chemistry used to count really really tiny stuff like atoms and molecules. Well, THE MOLE has changed. To show you how, we'll count atoms inside one of the world's most perfect spheres at the National Institute of Standards and Technology outside of Washington, D.C.

In the meantime, watch the first EXPERIMENTALS episode https://youtu.be/CkJ1MKMO0MI. It's three stories on nautiluses: A chambered nautilus never forgets. Nature's math equation. And finding Captain Nemo (in which we discover the lost, first underwater film... it involves sharks and horses... obviously).

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VIDEO BY : Tom McNamara
ANIMATION : Jason Drakeford
MAGICIAN : Erin Chapman
ONLINE DIRECTOR : Amy Schellenbaum
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF : Joe Brown

MEDIA
Audioblocks
Fleischer Superman cartoons (1941-43)
Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles, California Academy of Sciences
Internet Archive
“Looking Around” (1952), Wellcome Collection
“Scientists Amazed By the Mole Rat’s Bizarre Behavior” (1984), The New York Times
Library of Congress
Pond5
Shutterstock
Wikimedia Commons

SPECIAL THANKS
300 naked mole rats
CUNY College of Staten Island
CUNY Office of Research
Margherita Sansone
Dr. Dan McCloskey
McCloskey Lab

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