Severely short Ecuadorians resistant to diabetes, cancer, study says
"The most important thing of this moment is that people in the world know that these patients have been cooperating for 22 years. They are helping to understand cancer and diabetes with their effort, blood, serum and cells."
- Longo, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California.
For years, Dr. Jaime Guevara-Aguirre of Quito, Ecuador, noticed that his shortest patients never seemed to get the common ailments that befell others.
These patients had a genetic mutation that would not allow them to grow more than 4 feet tall -- their heights would be fixed to that of a 7-year-old for life.
Although they aged, Guevara-Aguirre noticed that "they developed neither cancer nor diabetes." "That was fascinating," he said.
That observation launched a 22-year study.
The study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine monitored a group of 99 Ecuadorians -- described as being of "severe short stature." The mechanisms that stunt their growth could potentially prevent cancer and diabetes, according to the findings.
Guevara-Aguirre and the co-authors compared the living participants' health with that of their close relatives who were of regular height. Those blood relatives "developed diabetes like the general Ecuadorian population, about 20% of them have died of cancer," Guevara-Aguirre said.
Yet of all the severely short patients only one got cancer in the 22-year period. After receiving treatment for ovarian cancer in 2008, she has remained cancer-free.