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Sometimes it Pays to be Short

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A new study published in Science Translational Medicine shows that a hormone found in a population of Ecuadorians from the Andes that gives them their short stature could provide clues to treating cancer, reports New Scientist's Andy Coghlan. The researchers studied 99 Andeans with Laron syndrome — a syndrome that prevents patients from making functional copies of a human growth receptor hormone — for 22 years, and found that only one had developed cancer, which was later cured. In comparison, 17 percent of the Laron syndrome patients' relatives without this hormone developed cancer. The researchers exposed normal human breast cells to blood serum from the Laron syndrome patients and their non-affected relatives and found that breast cells exposed to the Laron syndrome-affected serum had 30 percent higher levels of enzymes that protect against cell damage, Coghlan says. When these "protected" cells were deliberately damaged, they died much faster than the unprotected cells, "suggesting that individuals with the condition rapidly dispose of damaged cells before they are able to turn cancerous," he adds.

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