An American girl who was born with an extremely rare
condition that kept her a toddler for life has died at the age of 20, her
father told AFP Wednesday.
Brooke Greenberg, whose rare condition was sometimes called
syndrome X, raised scientists' hope of unlocking the secret to ageing.
She died last week of a lung illness, Howard Greenberg said
in a phone interview.
"We are going to remember her every day. She was a
very, very, very special child," he said.
Brooke, who lived in Maryland with her parents and three
sisters, stayed about the size of a two-year-old for life.
Hair and nails
Only her hair and nails grew, according to an ABC news
report that covered the family's story in 2009.
She had the mental capacity of a one year old and weighed
about 15 pounds (seven kilograms).
She underwent a series of medical emergencies in her early
years, including stomach ulcers, an apparent stroke, and an unexplained
lethargy that caused her to sleep for two weeks.
She was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her family began
preparing for her funeral, but then she suddenly opened her eyes and doctors
could no longer find any tumour.
At age 16, she still had some baby teeth. She rode in an
infant car seat and was often pushed around in a stroller during family
Unable to speak
Brooke was unable to speak but communicated her wants and
needs through vocalisation and mannerisms, and her sisters said in the ABC news
report that she sometimes rebelled the way a teenager would.
One of her physicians, Richard Walker, told ABC that he had
seen minimal changes in Brooke's brain over time.
If scientists could decipher a genetic mutation that made
Brooke the way she was, perhaps it could be tested in lab animals to help
unlock the secrets of aging and mortality, Walker said.
Greenberg said his family was never aware of other children
who had the same condition as their daughter.
"We have been told that she was one of 6.7 billion
people," he told AFP. "She was a unique individual."