Brooke Greenberg looks like a toddler, but she is actually sixteen years old. She is only 30 inches high. Now scientists are studying her genome to figure out whether she possesses a mutation that prevents her body from aging.
Greenberg also possesses the mental capacity of an infant, and has never learned to speak or eat on her own. According to a recent report on ABC:
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.
She has also suffered from several strange maladies, including burst ulcers, a stroke and a brain tumor, which healed after Greenberg appeared on the verge of death.
It's unclear whether her capacity to heal is related to her agelessness, but researchers hope to find out. ABC reports:
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."
Greenberg sleeps in a crib, and attends school. Her teachers and family aren't sure how much she understands, but they say she recognizes people familiar to her and likes to play and laugh.
Currently geneticists are trying to isolate the gene or set of genes responsible for her bizarre aging process. There are no other known cases like Greenberg's, and it's possible that her genome could be the key to unlocking how our bodies know when to age. If a sixteen-year-old can look like a sixteen-month-old, then why couldn't a sixty-year-old look twenty-one? Of course, treatments based on Greenberg's condition might keep people's brains stuck at the same age as their bodies. So you wouldn't have a person with the wisdom of a sixty-year-old in a youthful package. You'd just have somebody whose mind remained twenty-one for decades on end. Which sounds cool until you really think about it.