Tiny Ecuadorean Villagers Free of Cancer, Diabetes

Genetic mutation may shed light on longevity
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2011 2:45 PM CST
Updated Feb 20, 2011 7:45 AM CST
Tiny Ecuadorean Villagers Free of Cancer, Diabetes
A genetic mutation keeps Ecuadoran villages free of cancer and diabetes.   (Shutterstock)

After studying a group of villagers in Ecuador for nearly a quarter-century, researchers think it's safe to say it: These people don't get cancer or diabetes. The villagers are dwarfs—more specifically, they have Laron syndrome—and their particular genetic mutation helps keep them free of those two common diseases associated with aging, reports the New York Times.

The findings could shed light on longevity, particularly on the role of a growth hormone known as IGF-1 lacking in the villagers. (If they get doses of it before puberty, they grow to normal heights.) "This fits in with what we are learning from studies in animals about the relationship of growth hormone to aging, because both cancer and diabetes are related to aging,” says a gerontologist. Unfortunately, the villagers generally don't benefit from the defect to live to ripe old ages because they're prone to alcoholism and accidents, notes the Times. (More longevity stories.)

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