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Protein Shortage in Pygmies

<i> From staff and wire reports</i>

Pygmies appear to have unusually low levels of an important protein involved in growth, possibly explaining why they are so short and offering clues to shortness in other groups, researchers reported Wednesday.

A study involving 20 African Pygmies found they appear to have very low levels of growth hormone-binding protein, which may be why they fail to experience a growth spurt at puberty.

“This is very exciting to me,” said Dr. Thomas Merimee, an endocrinologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville who conducted the study with Dr. Gerhard Baumann of Northwestern University in Chicago. “I think it points to a major locus that can be responsible for short stature in man, not just Pygmies,” Merimee said.

Pygmies are an ethnic group found most commonly in Africa. Researchers have long known that Pygmies are born with a defect in their growth system that prevents them from growing above 5 feet tall, but the exact nature of the defect is unknown.

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