A groups of Ecuadorian little people, the Laron Dwarfs, have, through the magic of inbreeding become immune to both cancer and diabetes, giving scientists hope that this immunity can be transferred to the general populace:
There are a little more than 300 people in the world with the condition Laron dwarfism, a third of whom live in remote villages in Ecuador’s southern Loja province.
Sufferers of Laron â€“ believed to be caused by inbreeding â€“ lack a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor 1, or IGF1.
Research uncovered during an investigation by Channel 4′s More4 News suggests this is the reason for their longevity and apparent immunity to cancer. In ordinary humans, too much of the hormone can lead a person to develop breast, prostate or bowel cancers at an early age.
Dr Jaime Guevara-Aguirre, a hormone expert from the Ecuadorian Institute of Endocrinology, who has been studying Laron dwarfism for more than ten years, said: â€˜We’ve discovered that people with Laron simply don’t get cancer.
â€˜Cancer can be detected in their relatives of a normal size, but never in my patients â€“ not one single case.
â€˜Every experiment has demonstrated that high levels of IGF1 are associated with cancer, but these patients have low levels of IGF1 and an absence of the disease.’
According to Dr Guevara-Aguirre, finding a way to reduce levels of IGF1 could mean finding a way to prevent cancer from developing. â€˜Medically, this is very, very exciting,’ he said.
The Laron dwarfs could also have implications for the prevention of diabetes, he said. Despite a tendency to obesity due to overeating and a poor diet, it is another condition to which they appear immune.