by VR Sreeraman on  June 7, 2010 at 4:55 PM Genetics & Stem Cells News
 Seven-year 'Old' Brit Child Battles Arthritis, Weak Heart
A seven-year old Brit girl has the face and body of an old woman as she suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome.

The condition, shared by just another child in the UK, makes Ashanti Elliott-Smith age eight times faster than normal, reducing her life expectancy to 13.

She currently battles problems of ageing like arthritis and a weakening heart.

Ashanti's hair growth has stopped. She is now bald and plagued by wrinkles like any elderly person.

She currently stands at just under 3ft and is just 2st, the usual weight for a three-year-old.

She needs extra care and hygiene because illnesses like chicken pox and flu can kill her.

However, when Ashanti was born in May 2003, she weighed 5lb 10oz and looked like a healthy baby.

"I'd had a normal pregnancy and I thought she was perfect. Her dad Albi and I were thrilled," the News of the World quoted mum Phoebe, as saying.

The first symptoms of the disorder crept in at three weeks, when Ashanti's body started to convulse.

Doctors mistakenly thought the baby had been violently shaken by an adult.

But over the next few months her condition worsened.

Phoebe, 24, who lives near Brighton, said: "She was still jerking and she wasn't gaining weight and she was still bald - and my health visitor thought I was neglecting her."

Just before Ashanti's first birthday she was sent to London's Great Ormond Street children's hospital.

Phoebe said: "A doctor there took one look at her and knew straight away what it was.

"When he told us what Progeria was, I fainted in the room. Afterwards Albi explained to me it would be just like looking after a grandmother.

"He said we had to care for Ashanti as if she was an old person, as her body would age so fast. It was devastating but I knew I had to carry on and cope with it."

A defective gene causes progeria but the disorder not hereditary; Ashanti's little sister Brandy Lou does not have it.

Phoebe has taken Ashanti's illness in her stride.

She said: "We make the most of each day.

"Ashanti's such an easy-going lively little girl - she's so precious.

"I'm so proud of her. She doesn't let her condition bother her at all. She's such a big character and everyone knows when she is in the room."

Ashanti's dad Albi Elliott, 40, said: "I used to own a metal recycling company and I've given it up to spend as much time with Ashanti as I can.

"I'm so proud of her - she is a great daughter."

Like all kids her age, Ashanti goes to a mainstream school, loves playing with pup Samson and is a huge fan of Girls Aloud and JLS.

Source: ANI

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