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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 15:27 GMT
Age disease girl given new hope
Hayley Okines
Hayley Okines remains a "bubbly" child, her father said
An eight-year-old girl who suffers from a rare premature ageing disease says a possible breakthrough in the search for a cure is "very exciting".

Hayley Okines, from Bexhill in East Sussex, was diagnosed with progeria at the age of one.

Now research at the University of California (UCLA), detailed in Science magazine, has suggested a cancer drug could be used to treat the condition.

Hayley's parents said they were apprehensive about the findings.

Her mother Kerry Button said: "You don't know whether giving her this drug could cause nasty side effects.

"I had a bit of a cry sort of worrying about what might happen.

"But it's also very exciting times.

Hayley Okines, aged one
Hayley Okines has lived with progeria for the past seven years

"The first step would be hoping that this drug is going to be available in Hayley's lifetime."

"It would be Hayley's decision though," her father, Mark Okines, added.

"We've got to ask her if she wants to do it."

Sufferers of Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome can experience dwarfism, baldness, wrinkles and hardened arteries.

Most children with the condition die from heart disease before the age of 15.

The 20-week UCLA study used a farnesyltransferase inhibitor (FTI) on mice with the disease.

Only one of 13 FTI-treated mice died, but researchers stressed the drug would not provide a complete cure for children.

Dr Leslie Gordon, director of the Progeria Research Foundation, said: "This study gives us pieces of information critical to our movement toward clinical trials in children with progeria."

See Hayley Okines at her home in East Sussex

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