Renal Pathology in a Nontraditional Aging Model: The Naked Mole-Rat (Heterocephalus glaber)

Vet Pathol. 2016 Mar;53(2):493-503. doi: 10.1177/0300985815612557. Epub 2015 Nov 16.


The naked mole-rat (NMR; Heterocephalus glaber) is growing in popularity as a model for aging research due to its extreme longevity (up to 30 years), highly adapted physiology, and resistance to cancer, particularly when compared with traditional aging models such as laboratory mice and rats. Despite the NMR's seemingly lengthy health span, several age-related lesions have been documented. During a 15-year retrospective evaluation of a zoo-housed population, histologic changes in the kidneys were reported in 127 of 138 (92%) adult NMRs. Of these, renal tubular mineralization was very common (115 of 127; 90.6%) and found in NMRs without concurrent renal lesions (36 of 127; 28.3%). Many of the other described lesions were considered progressive stages of a single process, generally referred to as chronic nephritis or nephropathy, and diagnosed in 73 of 127 (57.5%), while end-stage renal disease was reported in only 12 (9.4%) NMRs. Renal lesions of these NMRs were comparable to disease entities reported in laboratory rats and certain strains of inbred and noninbred mice. Although many lesions of NMR kidneys were similar to those found in aged laboratory rodents, some common urinary diseases were not represented in the examined colonies. The goal of this study was to describe renal lesions in NMRs from a zoologic setting to familiarize investigators and pathologists with an apparently common and presumably age-related disease in this nontraditional model.

Keywords: Heterocephalus glaber; aging; chronic; mineralization; naked mole-rat; nephropathy; proteinosis; renal disease.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Kidney / pathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / pathology
  • Longevity
  • Male
  • Mole Rats*
  • Nephritis / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies