The elephant man-A medical mystery solved
December 9, 2006 3:14am CST
This man named Joseph Merrick(1862-18900, had a highly disfigured face. Back then,it was thought that he was suffering from elephantiasis. He bacame part of a freak show to make a living. In 1971, Ashley Montagu suggested in his book The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity that Merrick suffered from neurofibromatosis type I, a genetic disorder also known as von Recklinghausen's disease. This disease is still strongly associated with Merrick in the mind of the public; however, it was postulated in 1986 that Merrick actually suffered from Proteus syndrome (a condition which had been identified by Michael Cohen just seven years earlier Unlike neurofibromatosis, Proteus syndrome (named for the shape-shifting god Proteus) affects tissue other than nerves, and is a sporadic rather than familially transmitted disorder. In July 2003, Dr. Charis Eng announced that as a result of DNA tests on samples of Merrick's hair and bone, she had determined that Merrick certainly suffered Proteus syndrome, and may have had neurofibromatosis type I as well.