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  • Naked mole rats are every bit as strange as they sound.

  • They're cold-blooded mammals that live underground in big colonies run by a queen.

  • They almost never get cancer and they can survive for 18 minutes with zero oxygen.

  • They lose consciousness, and their heart rate and breathing slow way down.

  • But as soon as oxygen is available again, they perk right up.

  • A mouse, on the other hand, lasts about a minute.

  • Researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago, along with colleagues in Europe and Africa, used a variety of metabolic tests to figure out what was going on.

  • In low-oxygen environmentspretty common undergroundmole rats can change their energy metabolism in all their crucial organs, so they don't need oxygen.

  • They switch fuels, like a hybrid car.

  • Instead of glucose metabolized with oxygen, they use fructose and metabolize it without oxygen.

  • Knowing more about this metabolic trick might one day help in treating heart attacks and strokes, where a lack of oxygen is a killer.

Naked mole rats are every bit as strange as they sound.

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