People with a peculiar form of dwarfism living in remote Ecuadorian mountain villages provide some interesting insights into longevity and protection against aging-related diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Those villagers are called Laron dwarves. They have a short height because of a mutation in a growth hormone receptor protein. This mutation prevents the liver to make IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1).
IGF-1 is some sort of growth hormone, that makes the body grow. If you have a deficiency of it, you don’t grow any more.
However, these Laron dwarves don’t seem to contract cancer or diabetes. They seem to be almost completely protected against these otherwise very common diseases, which points to a role of IGF-1 in cancer and diabetes.
Other research has indeed shown involvement of IGF-1 in cancer and diabetes. The more IGF-1 circulating in your body the higher your risk of cancer or diabetes. Other studies show a link between IGF-1 and longevity. Lab animals like worms without IGF-1-receptors even have a double life span.
Conversely, the more growth hormone, the more IGF-1 you make and the faster you seem to age.
Ironically, growth hormone is touted as a powerful remedy against aging everywhere on the internet, despite studies showing a clear link between growth hormone, IGF-1, cancer and diabetes.
Anyway, Laron dwarves provide scientists with yet some more tantalizing insights into the why of the aging process.
This is a movie about Laron dwarves and aging: