Don’t Want Cancer? Be An Ecuadorian Dwarf

02.18.11 7 years ago 2 Comments

Villagers in some small Ecuadorean villages have a couple interesting things in common. First off, many of them have Laron Syndrome, a type of genetic dwarfism that probably comes from them being the descendants of Sephardic Jews who fled Spain and Portugal in the 15th century. Even more interesting than that (if that’s possible), they apparently don’t get cancer or diabetes.

An Ecuadorian physician, Dr. Jaime Guevara-Aguirre, has been studying a group of 99 villagers with the syndrome for the last 24 years and has found that they almost never get either condition, although villagers without the syndrome did. It looks like the key to their condition is the fact that Laron Syndrome causes the body to create only a small amount of the growth hormone IGF-1.

Another researcher, Dr. Valter D. Longo of the University of Southern California, created a serum from the blood of villagers with Laron Syndrome and exposed it to a sample of human cells. He then exposed the cells to a DNA-damaging chemical. The serum not only protected the cells from damage, it caused cells that did become damaged to self-destruct, thus preventing a cancerous tumor from forming. But, the serum became completely ineffective when IFG-1 was added to the mix. Previous studies by other scientists have shown that lowering levels of IFG-1 in animals leads to much longer lifespans, so the Villagers could also be long-lived, if they didn’t have much higher death rates from non-disease causes like accidents and alcoholism.

So, if you don’t want cancer, just make sure you have a form of genetic dwarfism, your ancestors were persecuted by the Inquisition and you’re ready to die from falling down the stairs or cirrhosis. Sounds like a pretty fair trade, right?

[New York Times via Gizmodo]

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