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Indian-origin researcher’s breakthrough could find cure for cancer and diabetes

Dr Yash Chhabra, researcher who was involved in this 5-year long study

Dr Yash Chhabra was part of a five-year long study undertaken at the University of Queensland, which has clarified a medical issue which has remained unresolved for half a century. This finding may well pave the way to cure “global killers like diabetes and cancer”.

Dr Yash Chhabra, a medical researcher in the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute Faculty of Medicine, is working with his team on a research which could potentially find the cure for two most dreaded diseases today: diabetes and cancer. The study is being jointly conducted by University of Queensland, University of Melbourne and Boston University.

This research team has discovered a hidden metabolic advantage that prevents people with a specific type of dwarfism from developing Type 2 Diabetes or cancer.

The findings of this research could pave the way for a new line of treatment, especially for diabetes.

In an interview to SBS Punjabi, Dr Chhabra elaborated on this specific type of dwarfism, called Laron Dwarfism, which is prevalent in Ecuador.

“People with Laron Dwarfism are immune to diabetes and cancer. They number roughly 500, the world over. We don’t have access to Laron dwarfs here in Brisbane, and nobody will donate us a piece of their tissue, especially because it’ll be invasive to their liver and other organs,” said.

“So we created mouse models to replicate these people and thereby, isolate the growth hormone which leads to this condition and find out their molecular mechanism. This will enable us to decide if we could use it to help the general population, as diabetes and cancer are two major global killers,” Dr Chhabra said.

“People with Laron Dwarfism aren’t sensitive to growth hormones due to a defective growth hormone receptor in their cells,” says Dr Chhabra’s team’s research paper.

It further adds that since the growth hormone is responsible for regulating height, metabolism and obesity, having defective receptors also means Laron dwarfs remain highly sensitive to insulin.

Quoting Emeritus Professor Michael Waters in University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience also states that normally when a person becomes obese, his/her sensitivity to insulin decreases and s/he eventually develops Type 2 Diabetes.

However, oddly enough, that isn’t the case with Laron dwarfs.

Establishing a link between these findings and their research, Prof. Waters makes a remarkable statement: “Our study clarifies an issue that has been unresolved for 50 years.”

Dr Chhabra said that understanding how defective growth hormone receptors prevented diabetes at the cellular and tissue level could enable researchers to develop treatments for the general population.

He also makes it clear that it was neither him nor his team which first identified Laron dwarfs are being immune to cancer and diabetes. “A research first came out in 2011 about these people who don’t suffer from diabetes or cancer even though they are often obese,” adds Dr Chhabra.

Even though the findings of this research sound promising, Dr Chhabra says that there’s a lot more still to be done. “We thought up until now that if the hormone or receptor is not functioning, you don’t get diabetes. But that’s not enough. You need to find the exact thing that’s happening. That’s what we’ve done in this study,” Dr Chhabra says.

This research paper, says Dr Chhabra, “is a significant breakthrough in the study of diabetes and cancer and will pave the way to new research.”

He and his team at University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute Faculty of Medicine are now hoping to design the molecules or drugs which can selectively target treatment as required.

Highlighting the tradition of fasting in Indian culture, Dr Chhabra explains how it might actually be helpful for regulating insulin levels in our body. “Fasting is a way to prolong not only your lifespan but also the span of your health. It also reduces growth hormone levels that help insulin sensitivity to be increased. In short, it works opposite to insulin,” he says.

In simple terms, this means that insulin sensitivity is high, one’s chances of being diabetic are low.

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