Brooke Greenberg is almost 18, but she has remained mentally and physically at the level of a toddler. She has no hormonal problems, and her chromosomes seem normal. But her development is proceeding "extremely slowly," says Walker. [...] Her body stopped growing when she was two years old. She hasn't grown a centimeter or gained a pound. [...]
The girl's uniqueness lies precisely in the fact that her genetic material seems normal, whereas she is obviously not normal, says the professor. Despite the surprisingly unremarkable genetic analysis, complete chaos prevails inside the girl's body.
Her brain is hardly more developed than an infant's, but her bones have a biological age of about 10 years. Her teeth, including her baby teeth, are like those of an eight-year-old. The length of the telomeres, on the other hand, corresponds to her actual age. In addition, the development of various organ systems, like the digestive tract, is what the professor calls "disassociated." "Different parts of her body are developing at different rates, as if they were not a unit but parts of separate organisms," Walker explains. He believes that there is only one explanation -- a failure of central control genes. [...]
Walker believes that aging is merely the continuation of the body's development. He uses the image of a house to illustrate his point. First the house is built. When it's finished -- or, in the case of the body, when sexual maturity is reached -- the construction crew would normally leave the site. But in normal people the construction workers stay and keep building, according to a plan that's been fulfilled and a construction supervisor who says nothing but nonsense. Soon the crew builds things like contorted bay windows and shaky dormers. Supporting beams are suddenly sawed off, and then walls start falling. Finally the building collapses completely -- and death catches up with the body.
"Aging happens when developmental genes merely run out of meaningful information and subsequently cause chaos," Walker says. His idea is to simply shut off the master genes of development. This, he hopes, will put a stop to the aging process. A body manipulated in this fashion would no longer change, but would only perform repair work. Eternal life would be within reach.
Brooke the Immortal