A syndrome is a group of conditions found together. Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, or 4P, was first recognized in 1961. According to Dr. John Carey, a pediatric geneticist at Primary Children's Medical Center, it is so rare that only seven children in Utah between the ages of 2 and 17 have been diagnosed with it.
Wolf-Hirschhorn is marked by a missing piece of chromosome 4. Usually, the piece missing is from the short arm (or "p" portion) of one of the number 4 chromosomes in each pair.Typically, those who have the syndrome show indications of microcephaly (small head), a small body, wide-set eyes, drooping eyelids, club feet, and often serious defects in the heart, kidneys, genitalia or palate.
The characteristics vary widely, depending on which segment of the chromosome is deleted in a particular person. But there is often a common look associated with a person who has it, especially in the eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
Physicians say the number of children identified with Wolf-Hirschhorn is increasing, not necessarily because more people are getting it, but because children not previously diagnosed are now being identified.
No one knows what causes the syndrome, and authorities say that nothing can prevent the chromosomal deletion.
Carey says the syndrome only occasionally manifests such serious problems as loss of sight and hearing.