Researchers at Rochester University believe that naked mole rats may help provide cure for cancer.
The bald rats never get cancer, and if their trick can be copied it could help humans resist cancer too, claim Andrei Seluanov and Vera Gorbunova.
However, culturing the naked mole rat cells in the lab is almost impossible, which made researchers wonder if this might be linked to their ability to resist cancer.
The study researchers found that a dilute solution of naked mole rat skin cells did start to proliferate, but stopped once the cells reached a certain, relatively low density.
Such "contact inhibition" is also used by human cells to inhibit growth, but cancer bypasses this mechanism so cells keep growing, reports New Scientist.
The researchers also found that contact inhibition in naked mole rats is controlled by two genes, p16 and p27, while in humans it is primarily controlled by p27.
"Naked mole rats have an additional barrier in the way of tumor progression," says Seluanov.
If this check could be stimulated in humans, it could halt the growth of cancerous tumors.
The findings were presented at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK, last week.