By Gardy Chacha
Progeria is an extremely rare genetic disease of childhood characterised by dramatic, premature ageing. The condition, which derives its name from “geras”, the Greek word for old age, is estimated to affect one in every four million newborns worldwide.
The most severe form of the disease is Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, so called after Dr Jonathan Hutchinson, who described the disease in 1886, and Dr Hastings Gilford who contributed to its understanding in 1904.
As newborns, children with progeria usually appear normal. However, within a year, their growth rate slows down and soon appear stunted, weighing much less than others their age.
While possessing normal intelligence, affected children develop a distinctive appearance characterised by baldness, aged-looking skin, ‘visible’ blood vessels, and a small face and jaw relative to head size.
They also often suffer from symptoms typically seen in much older people; including stiffness of joints, hip dislocations and severe, progressive cardiovascular disease.
However, various other features associated with the normal ageing process, such as cataracts and osteoarthritis, are not seen in children with progeria.
American Lindsay Ratcliffe is a young girl suffering from the disease. At nine kilogrammes and 36 inches, she is not an ordinary six-year-old. She has this rare and fatal disease whose name is derived from the Greek word that means “prematurely old”, which makes her body age eight.
So far, only 68 children in the world currently have the condition, according to the progeria research foundation. the scraggly and lurid thing about progeria is that affected children are likely to die at an average age of 13 years.
According to her birth records, Lindsay showed no signs of progeria at her time of birth.
“The first thing I did, I counted her fingers and toes. I was like, ‘ten fingers, ten toes, we’re good,’” recalled her father, Joe Ratcliffe, during an interview with journalists.