Published January 13, 2015
A 2-year-old boy in England suffers from a rare genetic disease sometimes referred to as Children's Alzheimer's disease, the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph reports.
Taylor Smith, of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, England, has been diagnosed with Niemann-Pick disease, type C, a disease that will cause him to develop signs of dementia before he hits his teenage years.
Shortly after Taylor’s birth, his parents were told he had an enlarged spleen and liver. At 14 months, it was discovered that the cause was Niemann-Pick, according to the report.
The symptoms of the disease are similar to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease, including neurological deterioration, as well as difficulties with coordination and balance, slurred speech and trouble swallowing.
Scientists believe NPC is caused when both parents pass a faulty gene on to their child, the Telegraph writes.
There are about 500 cases of Niemann-Pick disease diagnosed worldwide each year, according to the National Niemann-Pick Foundation.
Addi and Cassi Hempel, who are identical 4-year-old twins from Reno, Nev., also have type C of Niemann-Pick's disease. They were 2 when their parents, Chris and Hugh, began noticing the twins were walking off-balance and had poor coordination.
Chris Hepel said she remains "eternally optimistic" that a cure for the disease is out there.
"I know it's out there lying on the shelf of some pharmaceutical company," Chris Hempel said in a phone interview with FOXNews.com. "We just have to find it."
NPC is always fatal. The majority of children die before age 20. Many die before age 10. The late onset of symptoms can lead to longer life spans, but it is very rare for a person with NPC to reach age 40, the foundation's Web site says.
Addi and Cassi are a part of a clinical drug trial for Zavesca. The girls take Zavesca in combination with a low dose of ibuprofen and curcumin, a supplement made from the Indian spice tumeric, which is known to reduce inflammation.
Hempel said she has noticed some improvements in the girls' symptoms since they started the combination therapy.
"For the most part, they are like normal girls," Hempel said. "They go to pre-school, but we don't know what the future holds. This disease is very unpredictable. But, I really feel our kids hold some clues to neurological disorders . . . and they could help thousands of people."