Girl ‘frozen in time’ may hold secrets to ageing

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 (7.2kg) in weight and just 30in (50cm) tall, she is still the size of a one-year-old, London’s Sunday Times revealed.

Until recently she had been regarded as a medical oddity but a preliminary study of her DNA has suggested her failure to grow could be linked to defects in the genes that make the rest of humanity grow 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 Brooke’s condition presents us with a unique opportunity to understand the process of ageing,” said Richard Walker, a professor at the University of South Florida School of Medicine, who is leading the research team.

Superficially, Brooke, who lives with her parents Howard and Melanie Greenberg and her three sisters in Reisterstown, a Baltimore suburb, is frozen in time.

She looks and acts as if she were a small toddler – for 17 years her family has changed her nappies, rocked her to sleep and given her cuddles.

Brooke has shown some development, including crawling, smiling and giggling when tickled but she has never learned to speak and still has her infant teeth.

But she has also suffered a succession of life-threatening health problems, including strokes, seizures, ulcers and breathing difficulties – almost as if she were growing old despite not growing up.

Read more at The Sunday Times.

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