Yesterday I was reading an article in the latest issue of New Scientist when I did a double-take. The article was reporting on the use of computer software to spot rare genetic diseases from facial features, and very interesting it was too. However, the bit that really made me sit up and take notice was the following paragraph:
The team has since trained the software to recognise 90 disorders, and turned its beady eye on a photo of former US president Abraham Lincoln. It ranked Marfan syndrome – a disorder resulting in unusually large features that some believe Lincoln had – as the seventh most likely diagnosis…
I must admit American history isn’t something I’ve studied so I wasn’t aware of this. Until I submitted a story to Exiles: An Outsider Anthology (which is published in aid of the Marfan Foundation) I’d never even heard of the disorder. Now I find one of the most famous US presidents of all time could well have suffered from it.
The team behind the new research explain that it won’t give a foolproof diagnosis for Marfan syndrome or any of the other disorders it’s been trained to spot, but it will help. Good news all round for sufferers of this unpleasant condition.
If you want to read more about this fascinating development (and the research on whether Lincoln had Marfan syndrome or not) then head over to the New Scientist website. The article goes into much more detail than I have space for here!