Dr. Imad Shams
Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology
A tremendous biodiversity evolved on Earth allows species to face the challenges in their diverse habitats. The subterranean blind mole-rat of the genus Nannospalax (hereafter, Spalax) is a remarkably long-lived, solitary, wild, obligatory fossorial rodent of the Eastern Mediterranean region. Spalax inhabits sealed underground burrows, relatively protected from extreme climatic changes, pathogens, and predators; however, it faces extreme hypoxic and hypercapnic conditions that can reach ~7% O2, and ~6%CO2 in the natural habitat, which appears to be lethal to many mammalian species. Hypoxia stimulates reactive oxygen species excessive generation that compromises genome integrity, proteostasis, and homeostasis in general. Spalax is an extremely long-living mammal relatively to its body mass (~20 years in captivity; 120-200 g); moreover, it tolerates chemical carcinogens. I am interested in studying the physiological, cellular, metabolic and genetic strategies; and the evolutionary changes and the fine-tuning of the molecular mechanisms that underlies longevity, resistance to environmental stress and cancer.