Progeria is an extremely rare genetic disease that exposes itself during the first year of a child's life, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is characterized by baldness, aged-looking skin, a pinched nose and a small face and jaw relative to head size. Children with progeria live to be only 13 years old on average. Death usually occurs as a result of heart attack or stroke.
Children with progeria often suffer from many of the same ailments that plague older adults, including stiffness of joints, hip dislocations and severe and progressive cardiovascular disease. Progeria is estimated to affect one in 8 million newborns worldwide, according to the NIH. Children with progeria initially appear normal during the first year of their lives, but symptoms soon begin to present in the form of slowed growth rate, shorter height measurements and lower weights than other children measured at their age.
It is not uncommon for children with progeria to require coronary artery bypass surgery and/or angioplasty as a result of complications caused by progressive atherosclerosis. In 2003, research determined that progeria is caused by a tiny mutation in a single gene known as lamin A, or LMNA. As of 2014, the NIH is conducting research on people who live past the age of 100 to determine if they possess a unique gene that enables them to live longer. It is hoped that this gene can be utilized to prolong the lives of children with progeria.