The girl who never grew up

“It was a pretty amazing genotype that she had, suspended development and lack of aging on the outside. It sounded pretty amazing, and the more I checked it out, the more interesting it became,” says Eric Schadt, the director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Even though the specifics of Brooke Greenberg’s biological situation remain a mystery, researchers believe her genome is a trove of information with the potential to reveal secrets to longevity. Oddly, when scientists first sequenced her genome everything looked normal. She also had no abnormalities in her endocrine system, and no chromosomal abnormalities either, so they started to dig deeper.

After sequencing, Schadt and his team identified three mutated genes that hadn’t been seen before in the general population. Two of the three have the potential to be related to aging processes, but their exact roles are unclear. “The only way to compare her genes is to make stem cells from her in order to study what the gene mutation might be doing functionally,” says Schadt.