The Teesside Link to Solving GIANT Genetic Problem; Experts Hope Research Will Help Hundreds like Victorian Harry

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), January 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Teesside Link to Solving GIANT Genetic Problem; Experts Hope Research Will Help Hundreds like Victorian Harry


Byline: MIKE MORGAN

SCIENTISTS are working on a medical breakthrough for the genetic condition suffered by a famous Teessider known as the 'Yorkshire Giant'.

A team of experts, including some from the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and University College London, has led ground-breaking research in a bid to help modern sufferers of gigantism.

Scientists believe a "race of giants" sprang from a mutant gene that first emerged around 1,500 years ago and caused uncontrolled body growth. And they have used teeth from the skeleton of an 18th century man known as the 'Irish Giant' -Charles Byrne -to analyse DNA.

It allowed experts to calculate that all carriers of the mutant gene inherited the fault from a common ancestor who lived many centuries ago.

The same mutation has been found in living patients suffering from gigantism. And the vital work is being used to help identify - and treat - potential sufferers before excess growth takes place. It means Victorian Teessider Harry Cooper, who stood at 8ft 6in tall, is part of the history of the scientific advance.

Harry was, in his day, the tallest man in the world.

He lived in North Skelton, Brotton and Rosedale.

His story was researched by the late local historian Tom Curnow, of Skelton, who unearthed a picture showing Harry dwarfing a 6ft 4ins man.

Born in 1857, Harry lived in East Cleveland for many years before joining a circus.

He worked in ironstone mines, including North Skelton Mine, where he had to bend almost double to do his job.

The giant was asked to join a circus which had visited Brotton and went on to tour Britain before being spotted by the famous Barnum travelling show firm and taken to the USA.

He became a massive hit there and still has star billing at the Circus World Museum in Wisconsin. …

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