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Medicine Science

Researchers Study Mystery of the Toddler Who Won't Grow 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the stubborn-genes dept.
kkleiner writes "Twenty-year-old Brooke Greenberg hasn't grown since age five. For the last 15 years, mystified doctors have been unable to explain the cause for Brooke's disorder that has kept her aging in check. At age twenty, she maintains the physical and mental appearance of a toddler. The researchers are now are painstakingly analyzing Brooke’s entire genome in search of unique mutations. Needless to say, it is a formidable undertaking. 'Cracking the code on Brooke’s condition,' [Dr. Eric Shadt] wrote, 'is the proverbial searching for a needle in a haystack, since likely there is one or a small number of letters changed in Brooke’s genome that has caused her condition.' To find the mutation Shadt and his team are using the latest genome sequencing and analysis tools. The strategy is to compare Brooke’s genome to the genomes of her parents and three normal sisters, as well as to other available sequences from the general population, and identify gene mutations that only Brooke has."
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Researchers Study Mystery of the Toddler Who Won't Grow

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  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @04:50PM (#42608387) Homepage

    Right. Some tight skinny jeans and a bottle of vodka ... well, I suppose they should wait till she turns 21 for the vodka.

    In all seriousness, if she has the mental age of a 5 year old, she is probably quite content being treated as one, and it would be highly innappropriate to treat her as older than she "really" is.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @04:50PM (#42608393) Journal

    obviously the scientists studying her have far better qualifications and information than i do, but i can't help but think damage to the brain due to the stroke, coma, and brain tumor she suffered at age 4 (right before she stopped developing) could be a more likely cause than her particular genetic makeup.

    Well from the article they said:

    “has no apparent abnormalities in her endocrine system, no gross chromosomal abnormalities, or any of the other disruptions known to occur in humans that can cause developmental issues.”

    I assume that the endocrine system would have to be affected in order to cause such stunted growth? If the stroke, coma or brain tumor led to this wouldn't they see that abnormality reflected in these growth regulating systems? Also from the article the researchers claimed:

    “Cracking the code on Brooke’s condition,” Shadt wrote, “is the proverbial searching for a needle in a haystack, since likely there is one or a small number of letters changed in Brooke’s genome that has caused her condition.”

    Some googling turned up older studies [wikipedia.org] that claim there are no known genetic disorders present or even chromosomal abnormalities and her telomeres seem to be shortening at the normal rate. Also, apparently her body parts are developing out of synchronization. I guess it's possible there is a hidden system that synchronizes development so that your body doesn't develop asymmetrically? And we just haven't found this yet.

    Sort of offtopic but I'm a little disappointed that this unfortunate affliction for this person is being spun as a possible "fountain of eternal youth" in the article. Come on, people. We should be working to better understand this so we can help people ... that Kurzweil Singularity bullshit should be left out of the discussion until we fully understand it.

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @04:52PM (#42608409) Homepage
    !growing != !aging
  • Re:brain damage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @04:54PM (#42608447)

    damage to the brain due to the stroke, coma, and brain tumor she suffered at age 4 (right before she stopped developing) could be a more likely cause than her particular genetic makeup.

    That sounds rather implausible. Many people have suffered brain damage in childhood, how many of them stopped aging because of that? That would have to be an extremely specific kind of damage. (Keep in mind that even for brain damage, it's often difficult to disable a part of brain's functionality to full extent since the brain has a capability of "routing around".)

  • Re:4chan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:13PM (#42608721)

    Erm, we might want to forego the usual procedure on this one

  • by alexmipego (903944) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:16PM (#42608769) Homepage

    Those researchers can't exactly get funding to cure a single patient that's literally unique with a syndrome that most likely never happened or will happen again.

    However, if you say she might have the key for the cure of cancer and to stop aging they sure will get funded fast. If by some miracle they find a possible cure in the process, there's a chance that she might get that cure where otherwise the chance is a fat zero.

  • Re:brain damage? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:25PM (#42608903) Homepage

    Since she seems to have a one of a kind problem, any answer (even the correct one) will be implausible from a statistical standpoint. Either of the "it never did that before" variety or the "That never happens" variety.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:28PM (#42608943) Journal

    Yeah we are nowhere near mature enough as a civilization for such a discovery. It would be like discovering nukes in the bronze age.

  • Re:brain damage? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:31PM (#42608985)

    She is the key to life eternal.

    No, she is the key to never developing past the physical or mental age of 5. Nobody said she'll never die. Five year olds can die, too.

    And while she's got a lock on the physical age thing, many /. posters demonstrate the prior art that would prevent her from getting a patent on the mental part.

  • Re:4chan (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:47PM (#42609219)

    no no, a 20-year old with the body of a 5-year old.

    That means you can have the loli and not be taken away in the party van.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:48PM (#42609227) Journal

    Can't you see the unholy hell that immortality would unleash on a civilization that is just starting to wake up to ideas of conservation and natural resource management? Or on a related note, how immortality would be handed out, managed and exploited under capitalism?

  • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:51PM (#42609303)

    Can't you see the unholy hell that immortality would unleash on a civilization that is just starting to wake up to ideas of conservation and natural resource management? Or on a related note, how immortality would be handed out, managed and exploited under fascism

    ftfy

    Capitalism left the building a while ago.

  • by Macgrrl (762836) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:53PM (#42609327)

    One would hope that if we found a way to significantly extend the human lifespan, people would become much more interested in conservation and issues like Global Warming, because they would potentially be around long enough to see the effects of their actions.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:14PM (#42609659) Journal

    I thought about that, but it assumes that an increase in lifespan would lead to an increase in long-term thinking. Many people already think too short-term for their immediate situation, never mind a currently-possible human lifespan.

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