What’s the secret to immortality?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

29-year-old looks like 10-year-old
This 10-year-old looking boy, is actually a 29-year-old!

Woah, woah, woah, a doctor’s looking to study an 8-year-old baby? That has to be a mistake. Last I checked, 8-year-olds could act like babies, but they can’t be babies… can they? Well, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if it wasn’t for Gabrielle “Gabby” Williams.

Now, Gabby has been alive for 8 whole years. However, while the average girl her age weighs around 58 pounds and stands 50 inches tall, Gabby weighs a mere 11 pounds and wears clothes made for a five-month-old newborn. She also has baby-bottom-smooth skin and cute chubby cheeks. According to her parents, she’s looked this way since “forever.” Gabby hasn’t grown much since she was born, but why?

Well, she has a disorder that is so rare, and so unheard of, it doesn’t even have a name yet. “In some people, something happens to them and the development process is [slowed down],” said medical researcher Richard F. Walker. “The rate of change in the body [decreases].”

Walker has been studying the aging process for all of his medical career. However, he says he’s not interested in the “consequences,” but rather “the causes” of aging. When he heard about Gabby, he believed she would be a perfect person to study. As of now he can’t answer why she doesn’t age, but he’s still researching her DNA to find out.

If Walker can find what’s stopping her growth, he can possibly find what causes growth in the average person. His work won’t stop there, though. He hopes that if he can identify the cause in Gabby, he can make a “switch” in aging people to turn them immortal! “If we could identify the gene and then at young adulthood we could silence the expression [aging], find an off-switch, when you do that, there is perfect homeostasis and you are biologically immortal.” I think I just heard a cackle of evil laughter… What? Who said that?!

Does that mean if he finds the answer, he can help humankind become immortal? Surprisingly, yes and no. The doctor mentions that even if humans could stop aging, we could still catch deadly diseases or suffer fatal accidents. Well, assuming Gaby doesn’t catch a sickness, and goodness forbid she is the victim of an accident, how long will she live to be?

“From the time of her birth, we didn’t think she would be with us very long,” said her mother. “The fact is she is now going on 9 years. She kind of surpassed my expectations from the get go.”

Images courtesy of TLC.