Sunday, October 5, 2008

Plight of the Treeman

It's not every day that Indonesia makes American primetime television schedules. But check out the Discovery Channel this Sunday for the story of the 'Treeman,' a fascinating tale of bizarre science - and touching cross-border cooperation.

The treeman's real name is Dede, a rural villager not far from Bandung, and he became famous worldwide because of a condition that caused bark-and root-like growths over much of his body. American dermatologist Anthony Gaspari of the University of Maryland sympathized with his plight (on top of everything else, his wife left him), and travelled to Java to help Dede find the root cause.

Medical testing revealed that the growths were plain old warts, or HPV ... but because of his low count of white blood cells, they had been able to run wild over his body, instead of being kept in check by normal antibodies. Apparently with an ongoing course of treatment - although not without conflict between doctors like Gaspari, and Indonesian authorities - Dede has already seen remarkable improvement, and is on track to regain some semblance of a normal life. Learn more about the shocking Discovery episode here.

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