Rare dwarfism variant may prolong lifespan: study

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Researchers explore link between rare dwarfism and longer life.

NEW YORK, May 2: A recent study has shed light on the remarkable health profile of individuals with Laron syndrome, a rare genetic condition characterized by dwarfism and resistance to cancer and other chronic diseases. Led by Dr. Jaime Guevara-Aguirre, an endocrinologist at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador, the research challenges conventional understanding of heart health and aging-related diseases.

The study, published in the journal Med, found that individuals with Laron syndrome exhibit smaller hearts, lower carotid artery thickness, and reduced rates of arterial plaque compared to their relatives. These findings are significant as arterial plaque accumulation is a key factor in heart attack, heart failure, and blood clot formation.

Laron syndrome, also known as growth hormone receptor deficiency (GHRD), was first identified among adults with dwarfism living in a remote area of Ecuador. Despite having high levels of growth hormone, individuals with Laron syndrome lack the receptors necessary for its proper function, leading to dwarfism and a range of health benefits, including a remarkable resistance to cancer.

Dr. Guevara-Aguirre expressed surprise at the protective effect of Laron syndrome against cancer, considering the typically observed link between elevated growth hormone levels and cancer risk. The study revealed that not a single case of cancer has been detected among Laron syndrome patients, contrasting with their non-affected relatives.

Moreover, individuals with Laron syndrome, despite their shorter stature, display a special biological resilience that extends beyond cancer resistance. They exhibit low incidences of diabetes, cognitive decline, and other aging-related diseases. Dr. Valter Longo, co-lead author and professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, highlighted the remarkable brain health and reduced disease burden observed in this population.

The key to understanding the unique health profile of individuals with Laron syndrome lies in their low levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Unlike individuals with typical genetics, Laron syndrome patients have significantly reduced levels of IGF-1, despite high growth hormone levels. This reduction in IGF-1 production appears to confer protection against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

While the study’s findings are promising, researchers emphasize the need for further investigation to elucidate the precise mechanisms underlying disease resistance in Laron syndrome individuals. Dr. Longo suggests that drugs or dietary interventions targeting similar pathways could potentially reduce disease incidence and extend longevity.

In conclusion, the study provides valuable insights into the health effects of growth hormone receptor deficiency and underscores the potential for novel therapeutic strategies in combating age-related diseases.

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