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Scientist Obituary: Father Who Inspired ‘Lorenzo’s Oil’

Some people do science without having research training or a specialty degree, just a need to explore. Such was the case with Augusto Odone, an Italian economist with no medical training who nonetheless developed a chemical compound that seemed to slow the debilitating disease of his ailing son, Lorenzo. The story of his quest to find a cure for his son’s rare neurological disease, known as adrenoleukodystrophy, inspired the 1992 film Lorenzo’s Oil.

Augusto Odone and his son Lorenzo.

After learning of his son’s diagnosis, Odone and his wife studied the biochemistry of the nervous system, assembling a team of doctors, biologists, and other researchers from around the world for a symposium. At the event, many of the researchers learned of one another’s work for the first time.

With the help of a team of scientists, Odone and his wife eventually developed a chemical compound known as Lorenzo’s Oil which seemed to slow Lorenzo’s disease. Lorenzo’s Oil continues to be the subject of new studies, some of which confirm its benefits, but is still considered an experimental treatment. Nonetheless, the release of the 1992 film, which was directed by a former physician, produced a wave of financing for research that has led to more promising treatments for the once neglected fatal disease.

Read more on Odone in his New York Times obituary.

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Seandor Szeles

    Seandor Szeles is the co-editor of the Secret Life Blog. He is most interested in the human side of science and providing take-away for educators.