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Progeria: Hutchinson-Gilford Syndrome

Updated on March 20, 2011

Progeria is a type of genetic disorder where aging is rapid and premature. There are different genetic disorders with this condition. All of them reflect rapid premature aging in victims. Collectively, they are called progeroid syndromes. But they are treated and considered as clinically unique from one another.

Clinical diagnosis of these children shows that they appear old. For now, there is no known treatment or prevention for this condition. However, for treatment of their other diseases like heart problems and bone problems, they are treated the same way people with these problems are treated.

Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS)

One of the rarest forms of progeria is Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. It is the most well-known kind of progeria. It is considered as classic progeria. It was named after Jonathan Hutchinson and Hastings Gilford who discovered and described this syndrome. It was described by Jonathan Hutchinson in 1886 where a 6 year old patient had rapid and dramatic aging characteristic. In 1904, Hastings Gilford published a book illustrating the manifestations of this condition.

What happens to the genes is that the mutations of the LMNA (pronounced Lamin A) that happens at the time of conception are known to be responsible for this disorder. It is believed to have come more commonly from the sperm cell. However, few studies have shown that some egg cells can also be responsible for this condition. The cells in the child then form a new cell (de novo) that neither comes from both parents. Neither of the parents’ genes is responsible for this. This new cell is a defective gene that causes this condition. These abnormal LMNA causes the cells to die prematurely.

Scientists have been studying this disorder to find the “fountain of youth”. It may sound ironic to most of us but they believe that if they can reverse the effects of this disease, they may have the key to the “fountain of youth” by manipulating genes.

Though HGPS is a genetic disorder, people with this disorder usually do not have anyone else in the family with this condition. This is not a hereditary disease that can be passed on from parent to offspring nor is it a disease that siblings will likely share. But very few incidences happened where siblings share this condition.

Infants who were born with this syndrome appear to be normal at birth. HGPS manifests itself in early infancy. It is an extremely rare disease which is primarily a syndrome in children. It is estimated that about 1 infant in 8 million births are affected by it. To date, there are only more than a hundred reported cases of this syndrome since 1886. This condition is more common among Caucasians than any other ethnic background.

Affected children appear normal in infancy. But after a few months, they develop a distinctive appearance. They’d grow slowly and do not gain weight at the expected rate. Their facial appearance and overall appearance begin to change.

  1. Prominent eyes
  2. Thin nose with beaked tip
  3. Protruding ears
  4. Thin or wrinkled skin due to loss of subcutaneous fats (fats under the skin)
  5. Hair loss (alopecia) including thinning of eyelashes and eyebrows
  6. Delayed teeth formation and/or overcrowding of teeth
  7. Small body and short in stature
  8. Large head, small face, chin, and jaw
  9. Obvious scalp veins
  10. High pitched voice

Health Related problems

  1. Limited range of motion
  2. Stiffness of joints
  3. Arthritis
  4. Osteoporosis
  5. Hip dislocations
  6. Heart problems

However, there still is no known case where the child develops dementia, senility, cataracts, and diseases that develop due to poor habits like drinking and smoking. Their average life expectancy is 13 years. But there are few incidences where the patient can live as long as late teens to early 20s. The leading cause of death is associated with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) such as heart attack and stroke.

Although the physical appearance matures quickly, the mental capabilities of the child is normal. Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome is oftentimes misdiagnosed as Wiedemann-Rautenstrauch syndrome.

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    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      Hi BeatsMe!

      If they can create a drug which could normalize the aging process in those affected by the disease, then the same drug would probably slow down the process of aging in normal people to snail pace, right? Is that what you meant?

    • BeatsMe profile image
      Author

      BeatsMe 7 years ago

      Hi Quicksand, yes, that is, if scientists are thinking about creating a drug. They could be thinking about sumthin' else, I dunno. But if ever they find a solution for that, that same solution could apply to normal people, hopefully, if they're not mistaken.

      Thanks for reading. Hopefully you enjoyed reading this. :)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      Yes! My hope is that they would create a drug that would stop the aging process! :)

    • BeatsMe profile image
      Author

      BeatsMe 7 years ago

      Hi Quicksand, it's wishful thinking. But I think we can still help delay the aging process by having the right diet, applying moisturizers, lotions, creams, and etc. Superficially speaking, that is. :O

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Nice hub, it is scary there are so many variants.

    • BeatsMe profile image
      Author

      BeatsMe 7 years ago

      Hi Cgull, yes, there are more. I didn't check out differences in the others. There are many variants but people inflicted are few. Let's just hope it stays that way. Cheers.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I am not sure but it seems to me that there is a rather high proportion of children with this syndrome in outh Africa. I have heard of one child with the syndrome who has now lived to about 24 years of age, I think the oldest in the world.

      Thanks for the interesting information.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • BeatsMe profile image
      Author

      BeatsMe 7 years ago

      Hi Tony, thanks for dropping by. I'm glad you found this interesting. For a while, I thought I was writing boring hubs. Cheers.

    • profile image

      Lilu 5 years ago

      Very interesting hub!!! Thanks BeatsMe!!

    • BeatsMe profile image
      Author

      BeatsMe 5 years ago

      :) :)

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