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Cancer & Diabetes Resistance

March 1, 2012

A rare genetic mutation makes people very short, but also resistant to cancer and diabetes.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Trading height for disease resistance.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A rare genetic mutation that makes people very short also protects them from cancer and diabetes.  This according to University of Southern California gerontologist Valter Longo.  He and his colleagues studied a group of Ecuadorians with this mutation, which makes them deficient in a growth factor called IGF-1.   That limits their stature, but has side effects that protect cells from damage.  And when their cells do get damaged, they self-destruct more quickly than usual.

VALTER LONGO (University of Southern California):

If you have very low levels, as these individuals do, then as soon as you’re pushed in this damage direction, the cell dies.

HIRSHON:
That short-circuits the growth of tumors.  Previous studies in yeast and mice support the findings.  Longo says it probably wouldn’t be good to lower IGF-1 to these levels in other people, but it’s possible that a mild reduction could have more benefits than drawbacks.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.