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Naked Mole Rat is Impervious to Acid and Feels No Pain


Photo: Rochelle Buffenstein / City College of New York

Quick: what is the toughest animal on earth? I mean the one that can withstand the most pain inflicted by burning acid without flinching. Did you think of a gorilla? A lion maybe? Or perhaps a charging bull?

Well, you'd be wrong: it is the naked mole rat. Here's why:

"They're the nicest, sweetest animals I've ever worked with — they look frightening, but they're very gentle," said neurobiologist Thomas Park at the University of Illinois at Chicago. [...]

As vulnerable as naked mole rats seem, researchers now find the hairless, bucktoothed rodents are invulnerable to the pain of acid and
the sting of chili peppers.

Why are they so impervious to acid?

Scientists theorize naked mole rats evolved this insensitivity to acid due to underground living. The rodents exhale high levels of carbon dioxide, and in such tight, poorly ventilated spaces it builds up in tissues, making them more acidic. In response, the mole rats became desensitized to acid.

"To give you an idea of what they experience, we normally all breathe in carbon dioxide levels of less than 0.1 percent. If people are exposed to an air mixture with as low as 5 percent carbon dioxide, we'll feel a sharp, burning, stinging sensation in our eyes and nose," Park said. "We hypothesize that naked mole rats live in up to 10 percent carbon dioxide."

This work may help lead to better understanding and treatment of chronic pain in human: Link - via Politicontrabajista


"...the hairless, bucktoothed rodents are invulnerable to the pain of acid and the sting of chili peppers."

Whoa. What kind of tests are they running here? Just what exactly would make a rodent yelp in pain? I'm no PETA member, but doesn't that seem a little... twisted?

I could suggest a few other alternatives to these scientists... how about mace, or ground up glass shards stuffed in their eyes, or perhaps mock the size of their genitalia.
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"This work may help lead to better understanding and treatment of chronic pain in human."

By torturing harmless mole rats with acid and chili peppers? Personally, I'd rather take the pain than have such cruelty inflicted on any other living thing on my behalf.

It's not human pain we need to be worried about, it's the sad state of our human condition.
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Wah wah wah, why don't we all cry about it?

Suffering is the way of the world. Whether it's being subject to acid and chili pepper torture or living their entire lives fighting vicious cannibals in disease filled sewers - the life of a rat short and painful.

I think this is great. If we can figure out a way to ease the suffering of just one person by beating and torturing 12 trillion rats just to see what happens - go for it.
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It's got that "so ugly it's cute" thing going. :) Besides, I think it's smiling fully aware it's naked shame is going to be posted all over the Internet. LOL!
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To those who think they go around torturing animals:

They probably measured the co2 levels and the acid down in their holes, and found out about this, and tested it.
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"It’s not torture, if it feels no pain …"

Actually, in the article it says they did perform experiments where they did feel pain:

"...Park and his colleagues found the DNA restored the naked mole rats' ability to feel the burning sensation other mammals experience from capsaicin."

However it's not like they threw the animal into a vat of acid.
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This type of test is usually done by first anesthetizing the animal and then placing a small piece of paper in a known concentration of acid and then placing the paper on the skin (for pain tolerance, this is typically the inner thigh or lower back). A reaction is observed for speed and intensity. The acid concentrations increase gradually and immediately after reaction, the acid is neutralized with bicarbonate. Any potential burn areas are salved and dressed before allowing the anesthesia to wear off. Though attempts are made to not cause any burns, it still happens occasionally. It's a typical laboratory experiment and, in the grand scale of laboratory experiments, is minimally harmful.
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Thanks for the link! I think what they've discovered is that they don't feel pain caused by acidity, not that they can't be damaged by acidity. Dumping them in a vat of acid would definitely kill them, though it might be a painless death.
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