Entries in Growth (2)


Malia Obama, at 13, Almost as Tall as President

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One of President Obama‘s little girls really isn’t so little anymore.

Recent photos of the first family show the Obamas’ elder daughter, Malia, now 13, nearly as tall as her parents, who are both about six feet tall.

The president himself joked about his daughter’s height during a speech last July in Kansas City, Mo.

“Even though she’s five-nine, she’s still my baby,” Obama told the assembled crowd.

But his baby is growing up, and experts say depending on genetics and the timing of puberty, it’s not unusual for some young girls to be noticeably tall.

Genetic factors play a major role in determining height, and since the Obamas are both fairly tall, it’s no surprise that their daughter is, too.

But Dr. Gary Berkovitz, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said it’s difficult to predict a child’s ultimate height.

Getting an idea of how tall a child will be, based on parents’ height, involves a complicated formula, and might not be an accurate predictor, he said.

“The number you come up with can be two inches more or two inches less than actual height,” Berkovitz said.

Another major factor involved in determining height is the timing of puberty.

“If puberty comes early, then there is a growth spurt early and growth stops early, and a child may end up on the short side,” Berkovitz said. “But if puberty comes late, then growth continues.”

Predicting height isn’t easy, because the timing and length of puberty vary widely.

“How tall a girl is at any point isn’t enough to say where she’s going to end up,” Berkovitz said. “A girl who’s very tall at 12 but who’s already had periods for two years is going to stop growing soon, but a girl who’s 14 who’s never had a period will keep growing.”

Estrogen plays an important role in regulating height. Estrogen drives female adolescent sexual development, but also causes the bones to mature and stop growing in both girls and boys.

But pre-pubescent boys shouldn’t worry about being shorter than some girls their age. They’ll catch up.

“One of the big differences between the height of guys compared to women is that puberty comes later in guys,” Berkovitz said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Progeria Patients May Get Hope with New Research

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Doctors may be closer to finding a cure for patients with Progeria, an extremely rare and fatal genetic disorder which causes children to age eight to 10 times the normal rate, according to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine.

Progeria is caused by a protein called progerin which accumulates in cells much faster than the average rate.  But researchers found that a drug known as rapamycin slowed and even stopped the disease progression within the cells.

While the drug has only been tested in Petri dishes, scientists are excited about rapamycin's potential to treat the condition.

"Part of the problem with aging starts when debris is accumulating in the cells and it's not getting removed, and this particular drug is able to enhance the removal process," said Dr. Dimitri Krainc, lead author of the study.  "It would be too optimistic to say this could completely cure Progeria patients, but we're hoping that this drug could make these kids live longer with fewer complications."

Out of every four to eight million births worldwide, one child will be diagnosed with the condition.

Progeria patients appear healthy at birth, but soon after, parents and doctors begin to see signs of the condition.  Children with the disease are well below the average height and weight for their age.  Their head is disproportionately large for the face, they have a beaked nose, hair loss, a hardening of the skin and stiff joints.

Currently, the average lifespan of a Progeria patient is 13 years old.

"Lifespan can really range from 5 or 6 years to 22 years old," said Dr. Ted Brown, a pediatrician who has spent 30 years researching Progeria.  "In a typical course, by the time a patient gets to be 9 or 10, there is a hardening of the arteries, and they die of heart disease -- heart attack and stroke most typically."

The drug is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an antibiotic to fight rejection in organ transplant recipients.  Because it is already used for certain conditions, Krainc said this may allow for physicians to jumpstart clinical trials to test it as a treatment in Progeria patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio