For the first time, scientists have sequenced the genome of the naked mole-rat to understand its longevity and resistance to diseases, particularly cancer.
The naked mole-rat is native to the deserts of East Africa and has unique physical traits that allow it to survive in harsh environments for many years.
Until now, cancer has not been detected in this rat and scientists believe that its cells possess anti-tumour capabilities that are not present in other rodents or in humans.
Researchers at Liverpool are analysing the genomic data and making it available to researchers in health sciences, providing information that could be relevant to studies in human ageing and cancer.
"The naked mole-rat has fascinated scientists for many years, but it wasn't until a few years ago that we discovered that it could live for such a long period of time," Dr Joao Pedro Magalhaes, from the University of Liverpool's Institute of Integrative Biology, said.
"It is not much bigger than a mouse, which normally lives up to four years, and yet this particular underground rodent lives for three decades in good health.
"It is an interesting example of how much we still have to learn about the mechanisms of ageing.
"We aim to use the naked mole-rat genome to understand the level of resistance it has to disease, particularly cancer, as this might give us more clues as to why some animals and humans are more prone to disease than others.
"With this work, we want to establish the naked mole-rat as the first model of resistance to chronic diseases of ageing," he added.