Ukraine has confirmed the death of the youngest person to die of old age, an extremely rare genetic disease of childhood characterized by dramatic, premature ageing. Anna Sakidon, an 8-year-old girl from Ukraine, was suffering from progeria and had a biological age of almost 80.
Sakidon, who celebrated her eighth birthday last month, was battling with several health problems and died of multiple organ failure. She had been under treatment at Volyn Regional Children Medical Complex since her birth. The Foundation of Ukrainian Volunteers supported Sakidon’s medical treatment and its head, Timofey Nagorny, reportedly said that her only dream was to discover one day that the diagnosis was wrong.
The rare disease, which has affected nearly 160 people around the world, caused early ageing of the child’s inner organs and body systems. Dr Nadezhda Kataman, who confirmed Sakidon’s death, said that her bones grew slowly while her organs aged rapidly. The girl suffered several strokes, and paralysis of her limbs.
Sakidon was diagnosed with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, named after the efforts of Dr Jonathan Hutchinson, who first described the disease in 1886, followed by Dr Hastings Gilford who did the same in 1904. She could walk well at the age of ten months and followed her mother everywhere by the age of 11 months.
The newborns suffering from progeria appear to be normal at birth but their growth rate slows within a year with much less weight compared to the children of their age. Such children have a distinctive appearance characterised by baldness, aged-looking skin, a pinched nose, and a small face.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Maryland, they suffer from symptoms typically seen in much older people like the stiffness of joints, hip dislocations and severe, progressive cardiovascular disease. In 2003, NHGRI researchers, together with colleagues at the Progeria Research Foundation, the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, and the University of Michigan, discovered that Hutchinson-Gilford progeria is caused by a tiny, point mutation in a single gene, known as lamin A (LMNA).