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Mid Ulster found to be UK's land of the giants

Published 12/10/2016

Dungannon man Brendan Holland has been treated for the condition. Pic BBC
Dungannon man Brendan Holland has been treated for the condition. Pic BBC

Mid Ulster has been found to be Northern Ireland's land of giants.

The BBC reports that scientists have identified a gene defect which causes people in the region to grow abnormally tall.

The gene - called AIP, but known as the "giant gene" - can cause too much of a growth hormone to be produced and can lead to gigantism.

It was found to be more prevalent in those people from Mid Ulster during a screening in Magherafelt in 2013.

One in 150 people are thought to carry the gene compared to one in 1,000 in Belfast and one in 2,000 across the entire UK.

While the gene will cause no harm to many who have it, it has been found to cause health issues in some and could potentially be life-threatening. Those around 7ft tall could have heart problems and weak eyesight.

It can be treated with brain surgery and medications.

Doctors hope the discovery will help find those at risk of passing on the gene.

Dr Steven Hunter, an endocrinologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast said: "It can also cause problems with growth of the hands and feet in older people and it's associated with problems related to headache because of the growing tumour in the brain and affects eyesight as well.

"We've also seen people with other hormonal problems and infertility.

"It can be life-threatening, but in many cases it's disfiguring."

Brendan Holland, from Dungannon, is 6ft 9in and a distant relative of Charles Byrne who was born in 1761 near Cookstown and became known as the "Irish Giant".

He said: "It may not please the romantic in some people, but those who are afflicted with this condition probably won't object to the end of this condition.

"I've been lucky, I've actually been cured and had the best treatment available.

"My mother passed the gene to me and she never knew that and many people still to this day are passing the gene on without knowing it."

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