Medical Minute 11-4: Pushed to the Extreme: The Girl Who Doesn't Age

By: Ramin Khalili Email
By: Ramin Khalili Email

"We go for stroller rides, we go shopping, and we like to swing."

Brooke Greenberg is a medical mystery. She's 17 years old, but she only weights 16 pounds and is only 30 inches tall. A person whose body isn't what it seems.

"The only thing that grows on Brooke is her hair and believe it or not her fingernails," said Howard Greenberg.

Family photos reveal her story. As an infant, there were no signs anything was wrong. Even her parents didn't know, but as her younger sister grew - Brooke didn't. Then at age 4, tragedy struck. A stroke-a brain tumor, but Brooke survived. For the next ten years, there have been few medical problems. Now, the focus is why did this young girl stop aging -or did she?

"She is changing and she's changing slowly," said Dr. Walker.

Doctor Richard Walker has dedicated his life's work to unravel the mystery of aging. Doctor Walker is teamed up with geneticist Maxine Sutcliffe to find the one gene that keeps Brooke young.

"We started out with regular chromosome analysis ... then we looked at the ends of the chromosomes," said CG Maxine Sutcliffe, Ph.D., Geneticist.

Her brain is the age equivalent of an infant; she still has all of her baby teeth. Her bone age is 10 years old and certain cellular markers equal her chronological age. Until now, scientists thought she was the one and only person alive to experience this but Dr. Walker recently came across three other people with the same condition.

A six year old girl, a 27 year old boy and a 40 year old man. The two males reveal what the future could hold for Brooke.

"If we could stop the process of decay slow as it is, then we would extend our productive years," said Richard Walker, Ph.D., University of South Florida.

Unraveling the mystery of aging through a child who can't grow up.

"And how apropos, to put the secret of this in a little child," said Howard Greenberg.

University of South Florida College of Medicine Health Media Relations and Communications Office12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.MDC 47Tampa, FL 33612

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