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'That Doesn't Sound So Terrible'

This post has been modified from an earlier version.

Over at Slate's Brow Beat blog, Roxanne Palmer says that the late actress Elizabeth Taylor's most famed physical feature — her eyes, "arresting: large, liquid, and framed by a thick fringe of eyelashes" — may have resulted from a mutation at FOXC2. According to Taylor biographer J. Randy Tarbonelli, just after her birth, the actress' physician told her parents that she had "a mutation," because she had two rows of eyelashes. In Tarbonelli's account of the event, Taylor's mother said:

Well that sounded just awful ... a mutation. But, when he explained that her eyes had double rows of eyelashes, I thought, well, now, that doesn't sound so terrible after all.

Later, researchers associated a like phenotype with a variant at FOXC2. Beyond double eyelashes, Slate's Palmer adds, FOXC2 mutations are also associated with "lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome, a hereditary disease that can cause disorders of the lymphatic system." Though Taylor's variant had an effect similar to a cosmetic enhancement, extra eyelashes as a result of this mutation "can sometimes grow inward and damage the cornea," Palmer adds.

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