SEATTLE, Aug. 19, 2008 -- Ellensburg, Wash., is home to a truly unique young man: 12-year-old Brenden Adams, who is more than seven feet tall and, incredibly, still growing.
He has a very unusual rearrangement of his genetic material. It's what's called an inversion of chromosome-12 and it affects every single cell in his body. Chromosomes come in pairs. But in Brenden's case, his 12th chromosomes don't match. Somehow -- experts still don't know why -- the middle of one of them broke off, flipped around and re-attached, disrupting a critical gene that controls growth. And that's what experts believe is causing Brenden's excessive growth and other symptoms and what makes his case the only one of its kind.
"This gene is functioning despite the regulation that it shouldn't be," said Dr. Gad Kletter, Brenden's endocrinologist at Swedish. "It's over-functioning. He was predicted to be over eight foot tall."
Now that doctors finally figured out what was causing Brenden's skyrocketing height, they still had another mystery to solve: how to stop it? And since Brenden is believed to be the only person in the world with the condition, there was no clear-cut answer.
Then, Kletter had an idea that seemed a little crazy -- shots of testosterone to jump start puberty and speed up Brenden's growth. It's puberty, he explained, that signals the body to stop growing. "We induced puberty," explained Kletter, "to fuse the bones and stop the growth." And so far, the shots seem to be successful. Brenden's growth has slowed down.
Brenden's story, which featured an interview with Dr. Kletter, was broadcast nationally Aug. 19 on ABC Television's Medical Mysteries program. To read the transcript and view a summarized version of this story on the ABC Web site, click here.