Scientists keenly studying the DNA of a 17-year-old girl who has body / behaviour of a baby

>> Monday, May 10, 2010


Scientists are hoping to gain new insights into the mysteries of ageing by sequencing the genome of a 17-year-old girl who has the body and behaviour of a tiny toddler.

Brooke Greenberg is old enough to drive a car and next year will be old enough to vote — but at 16lb in weight and just 30in tall, she is still the size of a one-year-old.
If confirmed, the research could give scientists a fresh understanding of ageing and even suggest new therapies for diseases linked to old age.
“We think that she has a mutation in the genes that control her ageing and development so that she appears to have been frozen in time.
“If we can compare her genome to the normal version then we might be able to find those genes and see exactly what they do and how to control them.”
Such research will be the focus of a conference at the Royal Society in London this week to be attended by some of the world’s leading age researchers.
It follows a series of scientific breakthroughs showing that the life span of many animals can be dramatically extended by making minute changes in single genes.
The work began with tiny worms known as C elegans, which normally live for only about a fortnight. Researchers have been able to extend their life span by up to 10 weeks by making small changes in certain genes.
The laboratory findings have been supported by research into humans, focusing on families whose members are long-lived. In one recent study Eline Slagboom, professor of molecular epidemiology at Leiden University, Holland, collected data on 30,500 people in 500 long-lived families to find the metabolic and genetic factors that make them special.
“Such people simply age slower than the rest of us,” she said. “Their skin is better, they have less risk of diseases of old age like diabetes, heart disease and hypertension and their ability to metabolise lipids and other nutrients is better. The question is: what is controlling all these different manifestations of slow ageing?
“So far, the evidence suggests that there could be just a few key genes in charge of it all. If we can find out where they are and how they work, it opens the way to new therapies against the diseases of ageing that could work in all of us.”
Walker and other researchers, including Kenyon, believe that finding the cause of Brooke Greenberg’s condition could be one way to pinpoint some of those genes.

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