Friday, May 14, 2010

Harry Raymond Eastlack

Harry Raymond Eastlack died from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare and poorly understood disease in which the bone repair mechanism runs out of control, turning other tissue like muscles and tendons into bone. Eastlack permitted his skeleton to be preserved for scientific research, and it is today on display at the Mutter Museum of the The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. His skeleton is one of the few existing in the world and a valuable asset to the study of the disease.

At age 5, he broke his left leg while playing with his sister. There were complications with the fracture, which did not set properly. The hip and knee stiffened and bone growths began to develop elsewhere on the muscles of his thigh. Within some years the condition spread to other parts of his body, ossifying his tendons and muscle and fusing his joints. By his mid-20s his vertebrae had fused together. He died from pneumonia in November 1973, six days before his 40th birthday. At the time of his death his body had completely ossified, even his jaw locked up, leaving him able to move only his lips.

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