Collins has joined forces with Elixir Pharmaceuticals, a Massachusetts company that had been researching the genes of healthy centenarians in the hope of learning more about symptoms of aging, such as heart disease and arteriosclerosis. The company intends to compare what it knows about the centenarians with DNA samples from the young progeria patients.
These days, 9-year-old Sam acts just like any child his age.
"I see somebody who's funny and smart and happy and jumping around and being a kid like he should be," says Gordon.
However, Sam has the body of an elderly man, 10 times his own age. He's starting to feel some of the effects of premature aging, including poor eyesight and stiffness in his joints. He has not, fortunately, had any of the more serious afflictions, such as stroke.
"None of us know what's going to happen to us," says Gordon. "We take it one day at a time. Just like every other family. We enjoy every day."
Just like any fourth-grader, that's just what Sam does. His favorite things include baseball, playing drums, Legos and reading the fantasy book "Eragon."
There's even more good news, as scientists have isolated the progeria gene and found a medication that seems to reverse the disease in lab rats. The Progeria Research Foundation, which Sam's parents started, is trying to get a first-ever drug treatment trial for progeria. They're working to raise the $2 million necessary to conduct that trial.