40 Year Old Boy

Reporter: Graeme Butler

"He's perfectly formed just small and just growing very very slowly" Nicky Freeman is indeed growing very slowly.. a few lines on his face are the only clue to his real age. Nicky is the little boy who never grew up. "Is he your Peter Pan? oh he's definately Peter Pan yes"

When you meet nicky it's easy to think of him as jsut a ten year old child which of course he's not. In fact Nicky and I are roughly the same age but as i age four years it seems Nicky only ages one. "They've been looking for this "can we live forever" but who wants to live forever what is his prognosis it's a bit of a worry"

Nicky's mum Kayleen was watching the story of tiny 17 year old Brooke Greenberg on Seven's Sunday Night .. it was then she realised how rare her son's condition might be."They were saying does she have the secret of eternal youth of what ever it is i suddenly thought well that sounds a bit like Nicky's story and i want to know a little bit more i dodnt' realise it was such an unusual thing"

Doctors can't explain exactly why Nicky is ageing so slowly. One reason could lie deep at the base of Nicky's brain - this small gland called the pituitary...releases human growth hormone.... It may have been affected in the same way Nicky's near-by optic nerve was - leaving him bline. Kayleen believes the reason for that may be a common Anti-Histamine she took during pregnancy. "The optic nerve and the pituitary gland are very close together so that you think that's what must have happened because why else what else had caused it"

As a new born everthing seemed fine ... but as he got older it was becoming obvious there was something unusual going on "Nicky grew normally for the first well 12 months but iv'e got a photo with his little borther who was born 18 months later and Daniel is standing he's nine months old and he's bigger than Nicky"Initially Nicky spoke as any other young child.. basic words. But after a procedure to reduce swelling on his brain... he never uttered another word. "Have doctors been about to explain his condition? No not really"

Apart from his youthful appearance - Nicky seems to have a remarkable immune system.. Kayleen says he never gets sick. "He's just got the most amazing immune system every one around him can have the flu and anything else but he never gets it so he must have something that a PHD student or someone must be interested in" Just like Brooke Greenberg the switch which controls our aging seems to have been flicked off in Nicky's brain... and that could be the key to controlling how the rest of us age. While the possibility of unlocking scientific secrets is exciting... as a mum, Kayleen worries what the possibility of a longer than normal life might mean for her son. "I've had two bouts with cancer and i paniced a bit thn cos who's going to look after nickey you know and it really made me think but he's well looked after and that bu i still worry because if he is going to live til 280 that's very big commitment for somebody for anyone isn't it"

"If it is correct that he's actually all his tissues are maturing at a much slower rate and that at 40 he's got tissue ages of 10 that would be incredibly rare" Proffessor Jack Goldblatt is W.A's director of Genetic services has never treated Nicky Freeman, but says science can learn a lot from conditions like his. "It can tell us something very exciting about a normal process that happens in every one that no-ones found out about before this is a particularly exciting issue to explore"