An 8-year-old who never ages has what researchers think could be the key to biological immortality, a controversial idea that humans might be able to one day live forever.
The secret lies in the genetic makeup of Gabby Williams, an 8-year-old girl from Billings, Montana, who has the appearance and facial features of a newborn baby. The girl was born with a condition that grinds her process of aging to a near halt, a genetic secret that scientists have been trying to pinpoint.
There are two other people who share the same condition as the 8-year-old who never ages, each of them growing at about 20 percent the rate of normal adults. But each also suffers from other afflictions, including blindness and an inability to walk or eat.
“In some people, something happens to them and the development process is retarded,” said medical researcher Richard F. Walker. “The rate of change in the body slows and is negligible.”
Gabby’s mother recognizes the medical possibilities her daughter’s genetic makeup could unleash.
“Alzheimer’s is one of the scariest diseases out there,” Gabby’s mom Mary Margret said. “If what Gabrielle holds inside of her would find a cure — for sure we would be a part of the research project. We have faith that Dr. Walker and the scientific community do find something focused more on the disease of aging, rather than making you 35 for the rest of your life.”
But the concept of biological immortality has become a hot-button issue. Last year, pro-immortality political parties launched in Russia, the United States, Israel, and the Netherlands, hoping to push for research into radical life extension technologies.
Scientists have also inched toward unlocking the secret of immortality. In February 2012, researchers from the University of Nottingham demonstrated how a flatworm species can overcome the aging process and potentially live forever.
The quest for immortality comes into conflict with many global activists who say the global population is already growing at an unsustainable rate for natural resources. Achieving immortality for human will only compound the problem, they argue.
But scientists say even if the 8-year-old who never ages can unlock the secrets of biological immortality, humans would never be able to overcome death from outside causes, like accidents and war.