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03 December 2023

8-year-old girl in 80-year-old body

By Staff

A little girl living in the United Kingdom has a rare disease that causes her to age at an extraordinary rate.

8-year-old Ashanti Elliot-Smith has the body of an 80-year-old, due to Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGP).

More commonly known simply as progeria (from the Greek word 'progeros', meaning 'prematurely old), the disease is the result of an extremely rare genetic condition in which the ageing process is accelerated.

According to The Sun, Ashanti was diagnosed with progeria mere weeks before her first birthday. While her cognitive function is similar to that of her peers, she weighs only 1 stone 13 lb (approximately 12 kg).

The National Human Genome Research Institution says that progeria causes the affected child to develop "a distinctive appearance characterized by baldness, aged-looking skin, a pinched nose, and a small face and jaw relative to head size."

Children with progeria also often suffer from conditions usually seen in much older people, such as stiff joints, hip dislocations and severe, progressive heart disease.

Due to the stiffness in her joints, Ashanti finds walking long distances extremely painful. She relies on a motorised wheelchair to move around. The Sun says it recently donated such a device, worth about 6000 pounds (S$12,360) to the little girl, after the National Health Service (NHS) declined to fund one because they said she 'wasn't disabled enough'.

The New York Post had earlier reported that Ashanti is one of about 50 people in the world suffering from Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome.

According to the National Human Genome Research Institue, the prognosis for children with progeria is poor - most die at the average age of 13, usually from a stroke or a heart attack.

There is no known cure for progeria, and no treatments have been proven effective.