Let’s be honest, the majority of us are dissatisfied with some part of our looks, our bodies, and our genetic makeup. Maybe you think your nose is too big, or you feel as though you are too short. Maybe you’ve lost your hair or gone grey at the ripe old age of 25. We all fret about some part of us that we were born with, and can do little, barring plastic surgery, to remedy the situation. In reality, the vast majority of us are blessed. Seriously, you don’t even know how good you’ve got it when compared to some of the genetic mutations and body deformities that afflict people all over the world. There are people out there that could only wish that their biggest concern or their biggest source of ridicule was their nose or their height. Beyond how awful some of these conditions are to have, adding insult to injury is that in many cases, those afflicted are either poor and can’t afford to receive treatment, or are children, born with a genetic disorder that will kill them before a cure is even found. From the slightly debilitating conditions that may impede one’s quality of life to the utterly horrific examples of biological defects that can incapacitate and kill the sufferer, these are some of the most shocking genetic mutations that nature has conjured.
5. Giant Pigmented Nevus
While some moles are considered beauty marks, most of us have a mole or two that we can’t stand the sight of. Some get them removed, while others suffer them begrudgingly. In reality, pigmented nevus is nothing more than a mole, and predominantly benign; nothing if not a minor eye sore. For Chinese man Zhang Hongming and others like him however, his mole is something altogether different. Zhang suffers from a rare and congenital form of giant pigmented nevus, colloquially known as giant furred moles. Born with black moles all over his body, as he aged the moles on Zhang’s back, shoulders and chest began to grow massive in size and produced thick black hair, earning him the nickname ‘Chimp’. After suffering years of torment and ridicule due to his condition, Zhang Hongming has finally received treatment for his rare, and shocking genetic mutation.
An inherited genetic disorder, Neurofibromatosis generally appears in childhood and is incurable. Furthermore, it comes with a host of different symptoms all meant to make the sufferer’s life miserable. Neurofibromatosis can cause everything from skin disorders, to neurological impairment, and even malignant tumors. The most common symptoms appear on the skin; brown spots may cover the body, freckling may occur, particularly in the armpits and groin, and, most disturbingly, massive amounts of soft, benign tumors grow just beneath the skin, almost giving the appearance of what one would think of as the skin of a toad. Seriously, it’s a sad and awful condition, and it doesn’t end there. Neurofibromatosis also may produce lesions in the eye, a curved spine, bowed legs and a shorter than average height coupled with a larger than average head. Add the potential learning difficulties one with Neurofibromatosis may suffer and it truly is a cruel genetic disorder that not only affects one’s appearance, but one’s health as well.
3. Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis
The vast majority of us have seen the documentaries on, or at least heard of, ‘The Tree Man’, 34-year-old Indonesian Dede Koswara. He has been profiled on reality television shows on TLC and Discovery, and due to his television appearances actually received treatment for his extremely debilitating genetic condition known as epidermodysplasia verruciformis. And what a condition epidermodysplasia verruciformis is. The disease gives the appearance of the skin literally turning into tree bark, but in fact what actually causes the horrific condition is the HPV virus. Yes, what looks like tree bark is actually massive growths of warts that eventually turn hard and scaly. The extremely rare condition, caused by a gene malfunction that would otherwise keep asymptomatic HPV infections at bay, is also known for the high risk of skin cancer associated with it. And, though there is treatment for the condition, most notably the removal of the warts, there seems to be no cure; as of two years after Dede Koswara had nearly 95 percent of his ‘tree bark’ removed, much of it has grown back, and Koswara has endured three further medical procedures to keep them at bay.
One of the more tragic disorders on this list, progeria has been erroneously called the ‘Benjamin Button’ disease, but those who suffer from it age rapidly, not backwards as in the case of the Brad Pitt film. Progeria is extremely, extremely rare, estimated to only affect 1 in 8 million people, and though it is strictly genetic, it is not hereditary because those with progeria often die long before they have children of their own. In fact most born with progeria don’t live to celebrate their 14th birthday. Characterized on the outside by the physical appearance of an elderly person with wrinkled skin and a hunched body, where progeria truly wreaks havoc on those it afflicts is on the internal organs, where kidney failure and cardiovascular problems are the norm. Ultimately, a hardening of the arteries, a condition normally reserved for smokers, the obese and the truly elderly, is the most common cause of death in those with progeria, precipitating either a stroke or a heart attack in the young victim, killing them far too soon.
1. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva
Imagine your skeletal system slowly turning you into what essentially amounts to stone. That’s the horror of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a disease of the connective tissue that causes the body to ‘repair’ damaged tissues by re-growing them as bone. In some cases, the body will ossify soft tissue without any damage even being done to muscles or tendons. When surgery to remove the unwanted bone growth has been attempted, the body will still re-grow bone instead of tissue; it truly is a skeletal prison for the afflicted. There is no cure, and because of the amount of ossification in the body, those who have fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva can also suffer from heart disease as well. Though it is no comfort to those living with this horrific condition, it is extremely rare with only an estimated 1-2 million people suffering from it worldwide. That said, the thought of having your skeletal system wage a war with your insides, slowly turning you into essentially a statue, makes fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva the most tragic, terrifying and shocking genetic mutation on this list.