Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cruise control: does holoprosencephaly explain some of Tom's behavior?   posted by Dylan @ 12/19/2006 08:11:00 PM

A common aphorism in the legal world is that the worst thing for a libeled celebrity to do is sue and spread the alleged falsehoods even more widely. So my thanks to Tom Cruise's legal team for bringing the subject of this post to my attention. (For a more pithy and very amusing take, please see Overlawyered.)

As first brought to my attention here, in the wake of the Cruise-Holmes pregnancy announcement a neurologist and Metafilter participant argued in a since deleted comment that Tom Cruise might suffer from mild symptoms of holoprosencephaly. Someone recently started a new thread noting that at some point this comment, apparently a relatively famous and well regarded one by the Metafilter community, had been deleted. By this afternoon, that entire thread had been deleted after the original claims had been reposted and much speculation ensued that Cruise's infamous legal team threatened Metafilter into removing it.

The original claims, which I saw reposted this morning before they were once again deleted, were contemporaneously recorded here:

The wonderful photo of the grinning Cruise illustrates beautifully the reason why I think this report might not be true, or at the very least, might be premature. Check out his teeth. That's right, Cruise has only three incisors - he was born with a fused, midline incisor. He's had dental work, including reshaping and adult braces, to minimize the abnormal appearance of this tooth - in early photos you'll find he almost never smiles, and when he does you can see that the middle incisor is freakishly wide.

Midline incisor can be a forme fruste of holoprosencephaly, a syndrome which in its more severe manifestions can lead to cyclopia, fusion of the frontal lobes, a primitive proboscis instead of a nose (located above the fusion eyeball), and other grisly abnormalities. [Caution: disturbing medical photographs.]

The babies are usually aborted or stillborn, which if you recall was the fate of Nicole's first couple of preganancies (after the first one, she clammed up about it.)

Further evidence of this heritable trait comes from Cruise's history; his biological father was mildly retarded and beat him severely as a child. Mild retardation, with or without violent behaviors, can also be part of an incomplete holoprosencephaly syndrome.

Amusingly, one of the genes found to be mutated in holoprosencephaly is called sonic hedgehog. It is a human analog of a gene first described in Drosophila fruit flies; embryos with the gene knocked out develop a spiky appearance and are non-viable. More than one gene knockout produced this 'hedgehog' appearance; some wag dubbed this member of the hedgehog family "sonic."

In any event, I suspect Cruise might carry one or even a pair of these holoprosencephaly genes, and if so, this pregnancy might not make it. I hope I'm wrong, though; no matter how you feel about Tom Cruise, genetic diseases really suck.

Could this, and not the gay/sham marriage rumors, be the secret about Tom and Nicole's marriage that she's seemed to be keeping? Is this why Tom bought a sonogram machine for personal use - to prevent leaking of rumors or photos if any abnormality had been been discovered? More speculatively, was there some minor cosmetic problem that led to the blackout on Suri appearances for months after her birth while it was corrected? While withholding pictures was hardly strange behavior, I recall that even many close friends had not seen her.

Tom Cruise has been a quasi-popular topic among GNXP contributors and commentors before, most relevantly here, when Nicole Kidman's miscarriages with Tom Cruise were used to eliminate her from speculation over what Oscar winning actress might suffer from what sounded like Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Ironically, those miscarriages look like possible evidence for genetic abnormalities on the other side of the relationship.

Finally, I note this post from last year commenting on the original claims of holoprosencephaly. It includes what is apparently the picture that launched this theory, as well as this interesting observation:

What does it say about beauty as a marker of reproductive potential that hardly anyone seems to have noticed Cruise's potentially sterility-denoting genetic anomaly until now? When you also take into account that some of the most strikingly beautiful women are actually genetically male, you have to wonder how much stock to put into the claim that looks tell you anything about reproductive fitness. It isn't exactly as if the typical mother of 10 is or ever was a potential Hollywood starlet either.

[And on an unrelated note, an introduction - I'm GNXP's newest guest blogger. My educational background is actually in economics and law, so my contributions will tend to take a "lay" approach to issues of potential interest to GNXP readers. They will also, at least in the near future, be few in number - I am entering the Army to attend basic training and then Officer Candidate School shortly after the new year.)