Real-Life 'Werewolves'

Figuera's research on why his patients can't stop growing hair could one day help those who can't grow it at all.

"If we could identify the factor, or the reason why hair grows beyond what is expected, it would be another step into understanding and perhaps help solve the problem of baldness," Figuera said.

Detecting the Gene

Over the years, Figuera has collected blood samples from Danny's family to map the hypertrichosis gene.

"This kind of hypertrichosis as shown in this family is very rare," Figuera said. "As far as I know, there are two or three families in the world [with it].

"We believe that this is a gene which was functioning a long time ago in the evolution of man when primates were becoming men," he said.

According to Figuera, as humans evolved, certain genes that were unnecessary for survival mutated and were turned off. Figuera believes that, in Danny's family, the gene for hypertrichosis was somehow accidently turned back on.

"In his family, there are at least five generations [of] people with this problem," he said. "I would say that there are about 20 affected persons in the family, including men and women."

Danny's grandmother does not have hypertrichosis, but she carries the mutation and passed it on to her children.

Genetic research has linked the condition to the X chromosome. That means if a woman carries the gene, she has a 50-50 chance of passing it on to her offspring, whether she has a boy or a girl. If a male carries the gene, 100 percent of his female children will be affected, but none of his sons.

Case in point: Danny's brother, Larry, who also has hypertrichosis, has a son who was born without the mutated gene. However, Danny passed the gene on to his young daughter, Daniela.

Danny's cousins, Lili and Carla, his sister, Jamie, and his daughter, Daniela, all have varying degrees of hypertrichosis.

Lili said people just stare at her. But she said she still doesn't do anything to remove the hair. "I have gotten used to being this way."

Carla said she never wished for a face and body with less hair. "This is how I was born and how I am going to be."

But Jamie removes her excess hair constantly -- she waxes every three days. She is pregnant and said if her baby is born with this condition, she'd "love him the same."

Danny's Love Life

As for Danny, he is loved by his girlfriend, Lucy, and they've been together for years.

"Well, people always say we are different, and a girl like me ... deserves something better," Lucy said. Despite what people say, Lucy insisted she doesn't care, adding, "I love him."

Lucy said she's most attracted to Danny's eyes. "They show great tenderness."

Lucy has never seen Danny's face without all the hair, and she said she doesn't want to. "I know him this way," she said. " I love him, and perhaps if he had no hair, well, then he would not be the same."

For now, there is no treatment for the condition of hypertrichosis -- only for its most obvious symptom, the hair. This report originally ran on Aug. 1, 2006.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...