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.
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.