Friday, July 3, 2009

"The Girl Who Doesn't Age"

Doctors Baffled, Intrigued By Girl Who Doesn't Age

Brooke hasn't aged in the conventional sense. Dr. Richard Walker of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, in Tampa, says Brooke's body is not developing as a coordinated unit, but as independent parts that are out of sync. She has never been diagnosed with any known genetic syndrome or chromosomal abnormality that would help explain why.

In a recent paper for the journal "Mechanisms of Ageing and Development," Walker and his co-authors, who include Pakula and All Children's Hospital (St. Petersburg, Fla.) geneticist Maxine Sutcliffe chronicled
a baffling range of inconsistencies in Brooke's aging process. She still has baby teeth at 16, for instance. And her bone age is estimated to be more like 10 years old.

"There've been very minimal changes in Brooke's brain," Walker said. "Various parts of her body, rather than all being at the same stage, seem to be disconnected."

Kinda messes with our perception of the passage of time, as far as what one may think would be the sort of irreversible impact this passage would have on the body. Brooke's seemingly unaffected...

In her first six years, Brooke went through a series of medical emergencies from which she recovered, often without explanation. She survived surgery for seven perforated stomach ulcers. She suffered a brain seizure followed by what was diagnosed as a stroke that weeks later left no apparent damage.
At 4, she fell into a lethargy that caused her to sleep for 14 days. Then, doctors diagnosed a brain tumor, and the Greenbergs bought a casket for her.

"We were preparing for our child to die," Howard Greenberg said. "We were saying goodbye. And, then, we got a call that there was some change; that Brooke had opened her eyes and she was fine. There was no tumor. She overcomes every obstacle that is thrown her way."
...The visual evidence of that unpredictable future is always there in the family pictures -- photographs in which everyone but Brooke is aging.

In the long term, the idea that the aging process might somehow be manipulated raises serious questions about what human beings might do with that knowledge.

"Clearly, that's the science fiction aspect of it," said Walker, describing the social and ethical dilemmas that would arise. "We can't have continued reproduction and people who don't age."

One possible reason to slow the aging process, Walker suggested, would be to allow astronauts to travel in space for long periods of time. "But right now, it's only conjecture," he said.


  1. That last comment is ironic: Space travel, as it approaches the speed of light, is probably the easiest method of truly slowing aging. That's all.

    Liking your inclusion of the word 'conjecture', though.

  2. Ironic in that space travel (being in space, like the example given by Walker) at those speeds is another way of affecting the aging speed/process...along with whatever Brooke's got going on.

    --And, thanks! I try my best to end posts with 'conjecture' somewhere...I'm 1/26 so far

  3. What I find extraordinary here is not the medical condition but the spin put on it by the journalists, and indeed the girl's family. I wrote about a girl with a similar condition recently in this post entitled "Laughing Water". I have no medical knowledge but find it extraordinary that a case of brain damage can be discussed in connection with speculation about discovering secrets of eternal youth.

  4. What makes it remarkable to me is the simple fact that some parts of her are regenerative enough to seemingly not be affected by the passage of time at all. What else could this potentially apply to besides the physical aspects noted by the doctors?