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Why Don’t Some Dwarves Get Cancer?

The dwarves of a village in Ecuador never succumb to cancer or diabetes.

We now know why the dwarves of a village in Ecuador never succumb to cancer or diabetes.

By Michael Waters & Andrew Brooks

Understanding the molecular mechanism that prevents dwarves from getting cancer and diabetes could lead to treatments for a range of diseases, and even hormone-free aquaculture.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The dwarves of a village in Ecuador never succumb to cancer or diabetes. After 40 years of studying how growth hormone functions at a molecular level, we now know why. This knowledge could lead to novel treatments not only for cancer and diabetes, but also many other conditions. It could even help us to grow fish more efficiently without the use of growth hormones.

While it’s true that hundreds of genes contribute to our height, growth hormone is the most important factor. Without it our average height is around 1.3 metres, while an excess of growth hormone can result in a 2.6-metre giant.

Growth hormone causes the band of cartilage at each end of our long leg bones to proliferate. When this cartilage is converted to bone we have a longer tibia or femur.

Growth hormone is made in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The secretion of growth hormone into the blood is regulated by the hypothalamus, which sends chemical signals down the pituitary stalk to the pituitary gland. The growth hormone then travels in the blood to all tissues in the body, where it binds to its receptor on the surface of all cells in the body except red blood cells.

From here the signal goes to the nucleus, where the readout of hundreds of genes is then altered. This results in cell multiplication, cell growth and changes to many cellular functions.

Human...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.