With the hit TV show Stranger Things now in its third season, fans are already looking forward the season 4 that’s due to follow in 2021. Loveable Justin, played by Gaten Matarazzo, has a noticeable lisp and this has led to the actor speaking out about his rare disorder.
Gaten & Netflix’s Stranger Things
This is a condition that Matarazzo shares with his Stranger Things character, Dustin. When bullies made fun of Dustin’s toothless lisp in the very first episode, with Dustin replying that it’s Cleidocranial Dysplasia, many viewers at the time were probably unaware of the rare bone disorder.
It’s not often we see characters with chronic illnesses, disabilities or rare conditions, unless that’s the focus of the film/show. It’s all the more rare that the actor/actress actually has that condition; this isn’t a person playing a person with Cleidocranial Dysplasia. Thankfully Netflix embraced it, building Gaten’s condition into his character, Dustin.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, it’s been found that each new season has sparked a jump in online searches for Matarazzo and Cleidocrania Dysplasia. So what is it?
What Is Cleidocranial Dysplasia?
Cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD) is also referred to as cleidocranial dysostosis. It’s a rare genetic disorder that affects the development of bones and teeth. Those with CCD therefore often have dental abnormalities and underdeveloped or fully absent collarbones.
Lack of collarbone is what allows Matarazzo to make his shoulders touch together in front of him.
Other features can include delayed closing of the spaces found between the skull bones, osteopenia or osteoporosis (thinning bones), recurrent ear/sinus infections, and hand bone abnormalities.
Cleidocranial dysplasia is usually the result of mutations in RUNX2, a gene that provides the body with instructions to produce a protein that’s required for bone and cartilage development. CCD is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion, meaning a change in a single copy of the responsible gene within each cell is adequate for producing this condition’s features. It’s thought that the RUNX2 protein serves as a ‘switch’ in regulating other genes that are involved in developing certain cells (osteoblasts) that build bones. RUNX2 mutations therefore lead to a shortage of normal protein, thus affecting normal cartilage and bone development and maintenance.
The NIH Rare and Rare Diseases Information Centre has further information.
Gaten’s Talks About CCD
Having a character with CCD and Gaten speaking up about his experience has allowed for greater awareness of this rare condition.
When talking on The Doctors, Gaten said how he’d struggled getting roles previously because of his height, lisp and “teeth situation”. Then he got cast for Stranger Things.
“I started explaining what it was,” he said, “and then once I got the part, they said they’re gonna incorporate that and use it in a realistic way. They asked me if it was okay if the kids in the show had bullied me because of it. I said it’s totally cool. It’s realistic.”
Are you a Stranger Things fan? Is this condition one you’d heard of before?