Faculty Profile

Rochelle Buffenstein, Ph.D.

Research Interests

My research interests broadly encompass comparative vertebrate physiology. To a large extent I have focused on energetics and endocrine issues encountered in physiologically stressful environments and, more recently, changes in these variables with aging. In this regard, I have worked with a wide variety of species including marsupials, mole-rats, tenrecs, bats, subterranean mammals, and primates both in the field and in a laboratory setting. Although, I have used many different species, specifically chosen to answer a particular physiological question, in recent years most of my research has focused on naked mole-rat biology and their novel use in aging and cancer research.

Naked mole-rats are the longest-lived rodents known, living more than 28 years in captivity, approximately 10 times longer than similar sized mice. Not only do these animals live an exceptionally long time but, unlike most mammals, these small rodents appear to be resistant to cancer. Studies currently under investigation in my laboratory include the assessment of age-related changes in their physiology and of related key organs. In this regard, we are currently focusing on age-related changes in brain, bone, and heart structure and function. Furthermore, we are currently using molecular and biochemical techniques to test various theories of aging, such as the oxidative damage theory, the advanced glycation end product theory, and the telomere theory in these exceptionally long-lived rodents. We are comparing these findings with those of several other closely related and phylogenetically distinct small mammals (other mole-rat species, bats and golden moles) that show disparate longevity.

For the procurement of animals and/or tissues, please contact us at smithm10@uthscsa.edu.

Lab Team

  • Kelly Grimes
    Kelly Grimes
  • Kaitlyn Lewis
    Kaitlyn Lewis
  • Miranda Orr
    Miranda Orr
  • Karl Rodriguez
    Karl Rodriguez
Dr. Rochelle Buffenstein Education University of Cape Town - Cape Town, South
Selected Publications

Orr ME, Salinas A, Buffenstein R, Oddo S. Mammalian target of rapamycin hyperactivity mediates the detrimental effects of a high sucrose diet on Alzheimer's disease pathology. Neurobiol Aging. 2013 Dec 14; [Epub ahead of print] pii: S0197-4580(13)00631-3. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging. 2013.12.006. PubMed PMID: 24411482.

Grimes KM, Voorhees A, Chiao YA, Han HC, Lindsey ML, Buffenstein R. Cardiac Function of the Naked Mole-rat: Ecophysiological Responses to Working Underground. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2013 Dec 20. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed PMID: 24363308.

Edrey YH, Oddo S, Cornelius C, Caccamo A, Calabrese V, Buffenstein R. Oxidative damage and amyloid-β metabolism in brain regions of the longest-lived rodents. J Neurosci Res. 2014 Feb; 92(2):195-205. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23320. Epub 2013 Nov 22. PubMed PMID: 24273049.