Lorenzo Odone was born on May 29, 1978, to Michaela and Augusto Odone. By the time he reached school age, he began to show symptoms of problems with his nervous system. At age 6, in 1984, he was diagnosed with the childhood cerebral form of adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a progressive degenerative myelin disorder, meaning that myelin, the “insulation” around nerves, breaks down over time. In Lorenzo’s case, the nerves in the brain were gradually being destroyed. In the cerebral form of ALD, symptoms typically begin to appear in mid-childhood (four to eight years old); the rate of progression is variable, but the disease leads to death within one to 10 years.
Search For a Cure
Michaela and Augusto, devastated by Lorenzo’s diagnosis, decided to research ALD even though neither had a scientific or medical background. They eventually learned that ALD leaves the body unable to break down big fat molecules, either molecules the body makes itself or ones that enter the body through food. After much hard work, they helped develop an oil made from olive and rapeseed, which they named “Lorenzo’s Oil.” The oil, if started early in boys with ALD but no symptoms, is now known to have some benefit in preventing the form of ALD that Lorenzo had.
Film Based on the Odones
In 1992 director George Miller turned the story of the Odones and their struggle to find a cure for ALD into the movie, “Lorenzo’s Oil” starring Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte. Sarandon received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role as Michaela Odone.
Lorenzo’s Life and Disease
Unfortunately, Lorenzo became bedridden and unable to communicate by the time he was 7 years old. Nurses and his parents cared for him 24 hours a day. He was treated with Lorenzo’s Oil even though his disease had already progressed. He far outlived his prognosis, surviving to age 30. He died on May 30, 2008, one day after his 30th birthday. Both his father Augusto and his life-long friend Oumouri Hassane were at his side when he passed away. (His mother died of lung cancer in 2002.)