But naked mole rats do more than just fight cancer. In addition to avoiding tumors, they also resist the overall decline seen in other aging mammals. Anew study from the same Rochester team may reveal how they ward off aging: they’re very careful about making proteins.

Like other animals, naked mole rats carry DNA that encodes thousands of genes. To make a protein, the mole rat’s cells make a single-stranded version of the corresponding gene (called messenger RNA), which is then grabbed by a cellular factory called a ribosome, which is made up of RNA molecules and proteins. The ribosome reads the messenger RNA and uses the genetic code to pick out building blocks to attach to a growing protein.