A boy born with the appearance and physical maladies of an old man – the story sounds familiar. After all most of us have seen `The curious case of Benjamin Button`, a film directed by David Fincher in 2008 which is loosely based on F Scott Fitzgerald`s 1922 short story of the same name, said to be one of the earliest literary pieces to have highlighted progeria, an extremely rare genetic disease characterised by rapid ageing.
Closer home in India, the condition was highlighted by R Balakrishnan in the 2009 Bollywood film `Paa` with Abhishek Bachchan as the lead protagonist diagnosed with the disorder.
Unlike the films in which the lives of the lead protagonists are made-up, kids born with this rare genetic disorder have dramatically tougher lives.
Ali Hussain Khan`s story is no different. The fourteen year old teenager from Bihar suffers from the rare disorder which causes rapid ageing and is known to affect just 80 people worldwide.
Ali, whose body ages eight times faster than normal, has seen five of his siblings die from the same genetic condition.
Ali’s parents Nabi Hussain Khan, 50, and Razia, 46, are first cousins and have had eight children in total. Only two of the girls out of eight were born healthy.
Progeria or Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome is an extremely rare genetic disease wherein symptoms resembling aspects of ageing are manifested at a very early age. The disorder has a very low incident rate, occurring in an estimated 1 per 8 million live births. Children born with the rare disorder live only till their mid teens and early twenties.
Children with progeria usually develop the first symptoms during their first few months, characterised by changes in skin, abnormal growth and loss of hair. There has been no significant breakthrough in the treatment of this disease or reversing the symptoms of aging.