Like so many young teenage girls, little Magali Gonzalez Sierra loves dancing, music, glitter, pink and make-up. But unlike her friends, this teenager is trapped in the body of a 90-year-old, and has already exceeded her life expectancy of 13. Magali, from Colombia, is one of a few young people around the world to suffer from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a fatal genetic condition characterized by an appearance of accelerated ageing in children. It means her parents live in fear that one day she won’t wake up. However, though she cannot walk and requires intense medication, this month Magali defied doctors’ expectations to reach her 15th birthday. And it made her quinceañera even more special.
Although they are born looking healthy, children with progeria begin to display many characteristics of accelerated ageing at around 18-24 months of age. Progeria signs include growth failure, loss of body fat and hair, aged-looking skin, stiffness of joints, hip dislocation, generalized atherosclerosis, cardiovascular (heart) disease and stroke. The children have a remarkably similar appearance, despite differing ethnic backgrounds. Children with progeria die of heart disease at an average age of 13 or 14 years.
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