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Is a Rare Type of Dwarfism the Fountain of Youth?

Tiny Ecuadorian villagers lack a key growth hormone. They also almost never get cancer, diabetes, or other age-related diseases.

Longevity researchers may have found their El Dorado in a remote village of Ecuadorian dwarfs. The New York Times's Nicholas Wade:

The villagers are very small, generally less than three and a half feet tall, and have a rare condition known as Laron syndrome or Laron-type dwarfism. They are also almost completely free of two age-related diseases, cancer and diabetes.

Dr. Guevara-Aguirre said in an interview from Ecuador. “In 1994, I noticed these patients were not having cancer, compared with their relatives. People told me they are too few people to make any assumption. People said, ‘You have to wait 10 years,’ so I waited. No one believed me until I got to Valter Longo in 2005.”


Valter D. Longo, a researcher on aging at the University of Southern California said he believed that having very low levels of IGF-1 was the critical feature of the Laron patients’ freedom from age-related diseases.


If injected with IGF-1, a human growth hormone, before puberty the Laron patients would grow to normal size. The irony is that while these Laron patients have been providing all the data to the drug companies to be able to make the drug, the main researcher on the project. Dr. Guevara-Aguirre has not been able to get the drugs for his patients, 30 of them who must be treated before they reach puberty.

Photo by Arlan Rosenbloom

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