These People May Hold the Key to the Aging Process
Photo of Mackenzee Wittke and mom Kim from Facebook/Kim Witke.
Can a young Canadian girl hold the secret to the fountain of youth? She just might, according to Richard Walker, a Florida-based researcher whose latest study involves examining the DNA of Mackenzee Wittke — a 6-year-old who is the size of an infant — and six other girls like her.
“The pitfall of the scientist is to hope for something,” Walker, a retired professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told Yahoo Health. “But the potential here is to find the genes that cause us to develop and, subsequently, to grow older.” Walker, who is 74 and has dedicated his 50-year career to the study of aging, adds, “I want to find the answer before I check out.”
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The perplexing conditions of Wittke and the others in the study — including a 9-year-old in Montana who weighs just 12 pounds, and a 25-year-old woman who physically and developmentally resembles a 6-year-old — are medical mysteries. Their cases are similar to that of Brooke Greenberg, the “20-year-old toddler” who received quite a bit of media attention before dying in 2013; she had lived her entire life with the physical and cognitive function of a 1-year-old. “Now we know that Brooke was not an oddity,” said Walker, who had studied her for years, “but evidence of a syndrome.”
He believes that, through nailing down the details of the as-of-yet-determined syndrome (sometimes referred to as “Syndrome X”), it could be possible to discover the secret to staying forever young — a thought that’s appealed to him since childhood, when he lived with extended family including his grandparents and great-grandparents. “Even when I was a boy,” he recalled, “I found the idea of growing old and decrepit repugnant.”
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