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World's Smallest Man Dies, Had Primordial Dwarfism


He Pingping, the world’s smallest man, may have been only 2 feet 5 inches tall, but “he made a huge impact around the world,” according to Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records. He, who died on Saturday, March 13, in Italy, had primordial dwarfism and was only 21 years old.

Primordial dwarfism is a type of dwarfism, a condition that affects an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 people in the United States. Dwarfism is a disorder that results in short stature, defined as adult height less than 4 feet 10 inches. The majority of cases of short stature are caused by endocrine or skeletal disorders. Overall, there are more than 200 different types of dwarfism, and primordial dwarfism is one of them.

Primordial dwarfism is a group of disorders in which growth is proportional but severely delayed, beginning in the womb. Therefore, individuals with primordial dwarfism are born at extremely low birth weights. After birth, they grow at an exceedingly slow rate. He Pingping reportedly was only the size of his father’s palm when he was born in Wulanchabu, the northern part of China’s Inner Mongolia region.

One form of primordial dwarfism is Russell-Silver syndrome, in which individuals have distinctive facial features that include a small triangular face, prominent nasal bridge, and down-turning corners of the mouth. Other features include an overgrowth of one side of the body, which results in asymmetry of the arms and/or legs, and defects of the fingers and toes.

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Seckel syndrome is characterized by a very small head, narrow face, malformed ears, abnormally large eyes, malformed teeth and other bone abnormalities, and mental retardation. Individuals born with Meier-Gorlin syndrome have small ears, small or absent knee caps, small mouth with full lips, various skeletal abnormalities, and underdeveloped upper and/or lower jaw bones.

Majewski osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism (MOPD) types I/III and type II affect an estimated several hundred people around the world. It is characterized by an abnormal growth or development of organs and tissues, a small head, scoliosis, prominent nose, high squeaky voice, outgoing personality, and progressive bone problems.

All of these disorders are very rare, which makes it difficult to know exactly how many people are affected and also easy to misdiagnose. Children with primordial dwarfism do not grow like other children, therefore metabolic disorders, poor nutrition, or digestive disorders are often diagnosed in the first few years of life, until it becomes obvious that the child has dwarfism, which may not be recognized until about age three or four years.

Life expectancy for people with primordial dwarfism has not been determined, although they do have an increased risk for aneurisms and other vascular problems. The oldest known primordial dwarf is a woman in her forties.

He Pingping was reportedly a chain smoker and had chest pains before he was admitted to the hospital just before his death. Now that He has died, the title of world’s smallest man may go to Khagendra Thapa Magar, who recently turned 18, and who reportedly stands at 51 cm (21 inches) tall. For more information about dwarfism and primordial dwarfism, see PrimordialDwarfism.com and Walkingwithgiants.org.

Guardian, Mar. 16, 2010