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Gigantism In Ireland From Ancient Gene, Scientists Reveal

First Posted: Oct 18, 2016 06:14 AM EDT
Liu Huichang Suffers From Gigantism In Leg And Foot
Twenty-one-year-old boy Liu Huichang from Qu County of Sichuan province suffered macrodactyly that his right foot was in 43 centimeters long and 14 centimeters thick
(Photo : VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Fairy tales may not have their limits, but the land of giants finally has an explanation as to why they are the region in the world with such a high proportion of giants in the entire world.

Live Science noted that in Mid-Ulster, 1 in 150 people carry the genetic mutation of the AIP gene that leads to an overproduction of growth hormones. Compared to other areas in the region, this is especially high: one in 1,000 carry the gene in Belfast, and one in 2,000 in the rest of UK.

This gene mutation results to gigantism, which happens when a tumor grown on the pituitary gland - a pea-sized organ located at the base of the human brain. In a research, Marta Korbonits, a professor of endocrinology at Barts and the London School of Medicine Queen Mary told Seeker that her team calculated the AIP gene defect and traced it back 2,500 years, finding a variant in the "Irish Giant" Charles Byrne - a man born in 1761 who reached a great height of 7 feet, six inches. The same variant was found in 18 other Irish families as well.

BBC noted that more than three-quarters of carriers will not develop health issues, but those who do can face potentially life-threatening risks. Symptoms also vary depending on when the disease first appears: in children, there is rapid growth, which is accompanied by joint pain, headaches, vision problems, diabetes, facial distortion, and enlarged hands and feet. In adults, there is curvature of the spine, muscle weakness, hypertension, and difficulty in sleeping.

Anthony Heany, an endocrinologist and professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles noted that while these people seem strong, the long term effects of their genetic mutation is disabling.

Treatments for gigantism include surgery, medication, and radiation therapy, although their effectiveness depends mostly on the progression of the disease - and usually, by the time clinicians get involved, it's already too late.

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