Dwarfism genes may provide protection against diabetes

Individuals with a certain type of dwarfism may have a genetic protection against type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from the University of Southern California. Researchers hope that their findings could eventually lead to a new treatment for the disease in all individuals.

For the study, which was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers followed a remote community in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador for 22 years. The community had an abnormally large number of members who had a specific type of dwarfism known as Laron syndrome.

During the study period, researchers tested participants for a wide variety of conditions. By the end of the investigation, they found that none of the individuals with Laron syndrome developed diabetes. For comparison, 5 percent of the community's non-Laron residents were diabetics.

Additionally, the team found a dramatically reduced rate of cancer among individuals with Laron syndrome. Only one case of non-lethal cancer emerged in this group during the study, while 17 percent of the general population of the community developed cancer.

The researchers said that they are planning on studying the DNA of these individuals in the hopes of finding an indicator of diabetes protection that could be used to develop new medications to combat the disease. Currently, they are focusing on growth hormones.

They noted that many of the adults who did not have diabetes lacked growth hormone receptors. Previous studies have shown that blocking this hormone in animals had similar effects to the ones observed in the Laron syndrome subjects. The researchers believe that this could be an effective prevention strategy in individuals who are at high risk of developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes.