Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Clues to Gigantism Provided by Family in Borneo Mountains

Information could lead to better screening of deadly pituitary disease difficult to detect in early stages
An indigenous family living in a mountainous area of Malaysian Borneo helped Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) researchers to discover information about genetic mutations associated with acromegaly, a form of gigantism that often results in enlarged hands, feet, and facial features.

The information could lead to better screening for the disease, which most often results from a benign pituitary gland tumor that can be deadly if left untreated, but which is difficult to detect until later stages when features become pronounced.

Researchers located a 31-member aboriginal family that included individuals with acromegaly living in a mountainous region of Borneo, Malaysia when the effects of the family patriarch’s growing pituitary tumor necessitated medical treatment. A medical team including VARI Distinguished Scientific Investigator Bin Tean Teh, M.D., Ph.D., and staff from the Department of Medicine at the University of Malaya Medical Centre and the Department of Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Malaysia subsequently traveled to the family’s village several times to collect blood samples for testing.

“Researchers had recently found a mutation in the AIP gene associated with acromegaly,” said Dr. Teh, “but we found that several family members who didn’t have visible symptoms of acromegaly had this mutation as well. This increases the importance of screening for families with cases of acromegaly since anyone could be a carrier. On one side of the family, at least two generations carried the gene before someone showed any symptoms.”

The later stages of acromegaly often produce enlarged hands and feet, protruding brows and lower jaws, thick voice and slowed speech from swelling of vocal cords, and other symptoms. When diagnosed, the tumor and entire pituitary gland are usually removed, followed by hormone therapy for the rest of the patient’s life. However, because the progression of the disease is so gradual, it is difficult to detect. If left unchecked, patients can die from complications such as heart or kidney failure. Well-known acromegalics include wrestler-actor André the Giant and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

VARI Research Scientist and lead author of the study Sok Kean Khoo, Ph.D., led researchers in scanning DNA in the family’s blood to find other factors that might explain why only some family members with the genetic mutation had visible symptoms of the disease. They found regions on a few chromosomes that might lead to further insight; these findings were published this week in the journal Endocrine-Related Cancer.

The prevalence of acromegaly is approximately 4,676 cases per million population, and the incidence is approximately 117 new cases per million per year. However, Dr. Khoo said that the recent findings may mean that the prevalence is higher since carriers of the genetic mutation who do not have symptoms are not included.

“The sooner we know how and why people are affected differently by this disease, the sooner we can help families who have it,” said Dr. Teh. “One of the women in this family was only 19 and probably thought that since her grandfather had lived so long with the disease, she would too. She chose not to go to the hospital for treatment and, sadly, died two years after our last visit.”

About Van Andel Institute
Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. VARI, the research arm of VAI, is dedicated to probing the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in 18 on-site laboratories, in laboratories in Singapore and Nanjing, and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe.

Joe Gavan | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Andel Borneo Gigantism Medicine VAI VARI blood sample family members genetic mutation

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>