Gabby Williams is eight years old, but looks like a newborn. She is one of only a handful of people across the world who age at an incredibly slow rate, and scientists are trying to figure out why. Once they do, the discovery could help fight Alzheimer's, and even give us an aging "off switch," which would give humans the chance to stay the same age... pretty much forever.
This isn't science-fiction. The other cases include a 29-year-old Florida man who has the body of a 10-year-old, and a 31-year-old Brazilian woman who still looks like a 2-year-old. While none of them were able to develop out of virtual infancy, and have suffered through other developmental ailments like deafness and blindness, scientists believe that they could learn from their genetic code how to stop the aging process once the maturation process is complete (when everyone is in their twenties. Which would kinda be hell, but whatever.).
"In some people, something happens to them and the development process is retarded," medical researcher Richard F. Walker told ABC News. "The rate of change in the body slows and is negligible."
"If we could identify the gene and then at young adulthood we could silence the expression of developmental inertia, find an off-switch, when you do that, there is perfect homeostasis and you are biologically immortal," Walker said.
Basically, humans would stop aging past their peak of maturation. Once everything is formed, a human would remain that way for eternity. Of course, death could still come from disease and roller-coasters, but you'd remain at your physical peak until then.
The parents of Gabby Williams wish researchers would use insights into her condition to focus on helping Alzheimer's patients instead of seeking immortality. As Catholics, they believe in the need for death. But researchers want to take full advantage of the opportunity Gabby has given them. Her mutation is extremely rare and not hereditary, and comes only a few times in a generation.
[The Billings Gazette]