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Aug 19 2013

Aging slowly

I came across this article about people who age unusually slowly, something I had never heard of before.

Gabby Williams has the facial features and skin of a newborn, and she is just as dependent. Her mother feeds, diapers and cradles her tiny frame as she did the day she was born.

The little girl from Billings, Mont., is 8 years old, but weighs only 11 pounds. Gabby has a mysterious condition, shared by only a handful of others in the world, that slows her rate of aging.

A 29-year-old Florida man has the body of a 10-year-old, and a 31-year-old Brazilian woman is the size of a 2-year-old. Like Gabby, neither seems to grow older.

Scientists are studying such people to learn about the aging process, to see if they can find a ‘stop switch’ for the maturation process that can be turned off. If that were the case, admittedly far-fetched at the moment, people would be able to stop the aging process when they reach adulthood. Then they reach a static state of biological development and would die only because of disease and accidents.

But the people who now have the slow aging syndrome are accompanied by a host of other problems. “Not only do the people [Richard Walker]‘s studying have a growth rate of one-fifth the speed of others, but they live with a variety of other medical problems, including deafness, the inability to walk, eat or even speak.”

Aging slowly seems appealing at first but is actually very sad.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    machintelligence

    There is also fast aging:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progeria
    It is also very sad.

  2. 2
    lochaber

    That ‘news’ article seems pretty suspect to me.

    I’m thinking it was something put out for publicity for the tv show, and had all of 5 minutes of research into it.

    It sounds like a really horrible condition, which is made worse by how little we know about it (compounded by the rarity of the condition). However, I don’t think their condition is ‘aging slowly’ – they are failing to develop normally, and I’m pretty sure that development/growth and aging are two separate and distinct processes.

    I suspect part of the reason is because each process is associated/correlated with time, and they (typically) happen consecutively, so ‘common sense’ just sees them as different aspects of the same process.

    Note- I’m not trying to deny this condition exists, or anything, I just think there is a big difference betwixt delayed/interrupted growth/development, and ‘aging slowly’.

  3. 3
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    I saw one probably case of this in the 1970s, referred to our genetics lab for “failure to thrive”. They had ruled out a lot of things that were possible to test for in the 70s … we ruled out gross chromosome abnormalities but that’s as far as we could go.

    At over a year old, she was a still newborn sized baby … she had not grown since birth.

    It was heartbreaking because we had no clue what it was, and even the experts of the day had no clue. The geneticist and the other doctors write up a very detailed case report for publication, hoping to help someone else another time, but that was all they could do.

    I don’t know what the outcome was. But I doubt it was good.

  4. 4
    didgen

    I worked at a state hospital in Ca. and actually took care of one of these children. “Jason” was seven years old but looked just like a baby of about six months. If I remember correctly, (it has been many years), he weighed about fifteen pounds. He did not respond as a six month old would however, he was more like a newborn, he never cried, never made eye contact, never really interacted at all. He was the most beautiful child I have ever seen though, beautiful curly golden hair, bright blue eyes.
    Even after all this time I remember him with sadness, and think of the heartbreak it must have caused his parents who never came to visit. Many of the parents of those children never came to visit, in fact had made it clear that they wanted no further contact about these children even when they died. It is what made me realize that there can be no barrier to abortion, when there is a known defect in the fetus, I have some objection to very late abortion short of medical reasons, but I also doubt seriously that any woman would want one for a frivolous reason, and know it is none of my business to judge anothers choice.

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