CHICAGO --- In 1994, after reading an article in a Karachi, Pakistan, newspaper describing a cluster of dwarfs living in a remote area in the province of Sindh, Pakistan, two Northwestern University Medical School researchers traveled there to investigate the disorder. That scientific journey led to the identification of a new, genetically inherited form of dwarfism.
Gerhard Baumann, M.D., professor of medicine, and Hiralal G. Maheshwari, M.D., research fellow at the Medical School, describe results of their study in an article in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Baumann and Maheshwari set up a field laboratory in a district hospital 30 kilometers from where the dwarfs lived. There they compiled a full range of ecological, nutritional, clinical, biochemical and genetic data on the dwarfs and conducted extensive interviews to establish family relationships and medical histories.
All 18 dwarfs (aged newborn to 28 years old came from a single inbred family living in two neighboring villages in an area where marriages between first-degree relatives are common. One, affected, dwarf couple had a son (also affected), demonstrating fertility in both sexes.
The height, weight, head circumference, bone maturation and blood pressure of the group were significantly below normal. The mean height of adult males was 130 centimeters, or a little over 4 feet. Females had a mean height of 114 centimeters, or were about 3.5 feet tall. However, their bodies were normally proportioned and showed no deformities. Their intelligence was normal.
Baumann and Maheshwari became aware of reports of four similar, pediatric-age dwarfs in two other families (of Indian origin). Males experienced late-onset puberty, at about age 16, and as adults had a distinctive, raspy, high-pitched voice.