Throughout the last year and a half, whilst attempting to traverse the sometimes rocky terrain of learning about a wide variety of genetic conditions, my classmates and I have found a way to help remember some of the numerous genetic conditions that we need to know. We, like many other people across the country, have a morbid fascination with celebrities. As our time in classes has gone on, people now regularly bring up any celebrity ties to genetic conditions that come up in our discussions.
I thought I’d share some of the ones that I’ve come across, both in class as well as in my internet searches that I have conducted in an effort to delay schoolwork (hey, we all do it right?). Some of these are well-documented, and some are simply rumored. I will definitely do my best to identify which are which in an attempt to not ruffle any celebrity feathers (as I’m sure Maps and Genes has a substantial Hollywood following). I’ll also post links to articles where I found the information, in case you’re interested in reading more about it.
Colin Farrell has a son with Angelman’s syndrome, which is an imprinting disorder that causes seizures, intellectual deficits and frequent laughter or smiling (gracefully dubbed ‘happy puppet syndrome’ by the medical community). He talks a little about his experience in this article:
Mayim Bialik did got her PhD in Neuroscience and specialized in obsessive-compulsive disorder in adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome, another imprinting disorder which causes intellectual delay, a ravenous appetite and morbid obesity. She talks briefly about it on her web site:
Gillian Anderson (of X-files fame and more recently seen on TV’s Hannibal) had a brother with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 who passed away at 30 from a brain tumor. One of the main features of NF1 are neurofibromas (tumors) all over the body, which sadly in some cases can be lethal. She discusses this and her work with NF1 charities on her web site:
Missy Elliot, rapper extraordinaire, was diagnosed in 2008 with Grave’s disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes over activity of the thyroid. Some common symptoms of Grave’s disease are anxiety, irritability, goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), and bulging eyes. She talks a little about her experience in this interview:
John F Kennedy, our 35th president, was diagnosed with Addison’s disease following his election and taking office. Some symptoms of Addison’s disease include fatigue, dizziness, weight loss and changes in mood and personality. It doesn’t take a political analyst to figure out why his administration wanted to keep this under wraps. An article in the LA Times talks a little more about this:
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple (and apparent Ashton Kutcher look-alike), had carcinoid tumors, the type of cancer that ultimately lead to his death. Carcinoid tumors are neuroendocrine tumors that can be benign, or can metastasize. Because they are neuroendocrine tumors, they can also secrete hormones, such as serotonin, which can cause other problems throughout the body. Here’s an article that talks more about carcinoid tumors, and references Jobs:
Atticus Shaffer (Brick from the TV show The Middle) was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type IV, which causes brittle bones. Individuals with OI have bones which are prone to fracture, and often leads to short stature, as well as dental issues. Type IV is a more moderate type, but is variable from person to person. Shaffer talks about life with OI Type IV in this article:
Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame was born with achondroplasia, which is a form of short-limb dwarfism. Achondroplasia is one of the more common genetic causes of dwarfism, and occurs more frequently in cases where the dad is older. The technical term for this is advanced paternal age (flattering, right?), and there isn’t a widely agreed-upon age where this kicks in. This page has some quotes from Dinklage talking about his experience growing up with achondroplasia:
Verne Troyer (Mini Me from Austin Powers) was born with Cartilage-Hair Hypoplasia Dwarfism (probably). I’m putting this one under ‘for reals’ because Troyer clearly has some type of short stature, and most of the articles I’ve come by listed it as CHHD, although none of them involve interviews with him or a conclusive diagnosis. This article is the *most* reliable one I found:
Venus Williams, American tennis superstar, was diagnosed in 2011 with Sjogren’s disease, an immune-system disorder that causes dry eyes, dry mouth and pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints. Williams talks in this article about how she manages the symptoms, but the illness did eventually lead to her retirement from professional tennis:
Bernie Mac, who was a comedian and had his own TV show, had a condition called Sarcoidosis, which is an immune condition that causes inflammation in various tissues of the body and can predispose to certain types of cancers. Mac struggled with this condition for years and it contributed to his death in 2008. He started a Sarcoidosis foundation with a lot of information here:
Probs for reals, but thus far just speculation:
Tom Cruise was rumored to have been born with holoprosencephaly, a condition that can cause the brain to be unable to divide correctly into two lobes. Speculation began with photos that appeared to show a younger Cruise with a centrally-spaced front incisor, which is a hallmark feature of holoprosencephaly. Some have hypothesized that this could be an explanation for his rumored fertility problems, as well as his sometimes erratic behavior (see: Oprah interview). Here’s the blog post that brought this to my attention; judge for yourself:
Abraham Lincoln has long been rumored to have a genetic condition, largely because of his abnormally tall stature. The most prevailing theory is that Lincoln had Marfan’s syndrome, a genetic condition that causes tall stature, long spider-like fingers, and can predispose to vision or heart problems. Here’s an article that explores the evidence:
Jamie Lee Curtis has long been rumored (and again never been confirmed to have) some sort of gonadal disorder. The most common thing I’ve seen thrown around on articles I’ve looked at is ‘hemaphrodite’, which is not only an outdated term, but not very accurate. The prevailing theory among celebrity conspiracy theorists is that the actress has Androgen Insensitivity syndrome. Individuals with AIS are chromosomally male (XY), but are phenotypically female. Women with AIS would be infertile (seemingly the majority of the ‘evidence’ that Curtis has this – her two children are adopted), and would not menstruate. The Curtis camp has done a pretty good job at keeping a lid on this honey pot, but here’s an article from, appropriately, urbanlegends.com, that addresses this:
Ceelo Green allegedly was born with hypochondroplasia, which is a less severe form of achondroplasia (see: Peter Dinklage). Although not confirmed, his height and the proportion of his limbs along with his facial features suggest this less common type of dwarfism. Again, not a super reliable source, but they make a good case:
That’s all for now – Happy Holidays everyone!