Girl's Rare Illness Keeps Her From Aging

Layla Qualls is among seven children worldwide with Syndrome X
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2015 1:51 PM CDT
Girl's Rare Illness Keeps Her From Aging

(Newser) – Imagine having a 3-year-old child who still looks like a little baby—but when doctors look at her, they can't figure out what's wrong. That's what the Qualls family in Oklahoma has been experiencing for years, Fox News reports. "She's seen, it seems, like every specialist there is, everything comes back normal," says Felicia Qualls, mother to little Layla. It started when newborn Layla wouldn't eat, and couldn't gain weight; now, she weighs only 19 pounds. She's also among seven children worldwide identified as having an unexplained condition known as Syndrome X, which slows down the aging process both physically and mentally, KWTV Oklahoma City reports. Experts from UCLA have found that these children's blood appears to have aged normally; they are continuing their genetic study.

"It would have been nice to say we found a footprint of the mechanism that could explain that condition," says study author Steve Horvath. "As a researcher you need to continue searching." Horvath is working with Dr. Richard Walker, who studied a then-teenager with Syndrome X in 2009, the BBC reported last year. Walker concluded that Brooke Greenberg's genes must be to blame—there was no nutritional or hormonal cause. Brooke was developing, he found, but not at a consistent rate: Mentally, she was between one and eight months, but she had no more baby fat, normal hair and nails, the teeth of an 8-year-old, the bones of a 10-year-old, and had not hit puberty—but evidence indicated her cells were actually aging more rapidly than those of other teens. (Brooke died in 2013 at age 20, looking like a toddler, while a girl who aged too rapidly recently died at age 17.)

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