-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A genetic mutation that
causes a type of dwarfism may also protect against cancer and
diabetes, a new study finds.
The finding suggests it may be possible to use drugs or other
methods to achieve similar protection in normal-height adults, said
study authors Valter Longo, a University of Southern California
cell biologist, and Ecuadorian endocrinologist Jaime
Their research included people in a remote community on the
slopes of the Andes mountains. Many members of the community have
Laron syndrome, a deficiency in a gene that prevents that body from
using growth hormone.
For 22 years, the researchers followed about 100 people with
Laron syndrome and 1,600 of their normal-stature relatives. During
that time, no one with Laron syndrome developed diabetes and only
one person got cancer, while 5 percent of their relatives were
diagnosed with diabetes and 17 percent with cancer.
The study appears in the Feb. 17 issue of
Science Translational Medicine.
"The growth hormone receptor-deficient people don't get two of the major diseases of aging. They also have a very low incidence of stroke, but the number of deaths from stroke was too small to determine whether it's significant," Longo said in a university news release.
There are already drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration that block growth hormone activity. Currently, those
drugs are used to treat acromegaly, a condition related to
Other research has found that caloric restriction and fasting
also reduce growth hormone activity, according to the news release,
although going without food and nutrients carries risks.
Overall lifespan was the same for both groups, but those with
Laron syndrome died more often from substance abuse and
"Although all the growth hormone deficient subjects we met appear to be relatively happy and normal and are known to have normal cognitive function, there are a lot of strange causes of death, including many that are alcohol-related," Longo said.
The Office of Rare Diseases Research, U.S. National Institutes
of Health has more about
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