Who said good things didn’t come out of unfortunate situations? That is certainly not the case for the genetic disorder that is revolutionizing research on cancer and diabetes. Laron syndrome is a fairly rare autosomal recessive disorder, currently affecting about three-hundred people worldwide. Its distinguishing symptom includes insensitivity to growth hormone causing dwarf-like stature. Scientific American has recently introduced Jaime Guevara-Aguirre, an unofficial doctor in Ecuador. He has the unique opportunity there to study the one-third of the world’s population affected by Laron Syndrome who reside in southern Ecuador. His studies on those with Laron Syndrome have led him to make some remarkable observations that could potentially change medicine as we know it: In a community with a 5% diagnosis rate of diabetes and a 17% diagnosis rate of cancer, virtually none of his patients have been diagnosed with either.
Laron’s Syndrome is associated with a mutation in the growth hormone receptor gene (GHR). The individuals also have unusually low levels of insulinlike growth factor 1 (IGF1), which is a hormone that rapid multiplication of cells and inhibits apoptosis. Studies have been done that suggest protection from oxidative damage to DNA by toxins actually comes from a lack of IGF1. Other research has proven that dwarf mice with the same GHR mutation also have decreased rates of cancer, higher protection against diabetes, and even increased life spans. The molecular studies have collaborated with Guevara-Aguirre’s, making the overall research the first time deficiency in GHR has been studied on humans. Growing from research done strictly on lab mice, we can now conclude that IFG1 is undoubtedly an important determining factor of cancer.
There is no doubt these findings will take us to great places. In the near future, doctors may be able to prescribe IGF1-lowering drugs to protect those at risk for cancer and diabetes, similarly to what they would do for those with high levels of cholesterol. Additional research being done on IGF1 and GHR is expected to be done and will hopefully bring us to the day when millions of lives can be spared by a single drug.
Posted by Brianna Lee (2)