Failing to find a doctor capable of treating their young son Lorenzo’s rare disease, Augusto and Michaela Odone, founders of The Myelin Project, sought their own cure. They set out on a mission to find a treatment to save their child. In their quest, the Odones clashed with doctors, scientists, and support groups, who were skeptical that anything could be done about Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), much less by laypeople. But they persisted, setting up camp in medical libraries, reviewing animal experiments, badgering researchers, questioning top doctors all over the world, and even organizing an international symposium about the disease.
Despite research dead ends, the horror of watching their son’s health decline, and being surrounded by skeptics (including the coordinators of the support group they attended), they persisted until they finally hit upon a therapy involving adding a certain kind of oil (actually containing two specific long chain fatty acids, isolated from rapeseed [canola] oil and olive oil) to their son’s diet.
They contacted over 100 firms around the world until they found an elderly British chemist (Don Suddaby) working for Croda International who was willing to take on the challenge of distilling the proper formula. It proved successful in normalizing the accumulation of the very long chain fatty acids in the brain that had been causing their son’s steady decline, thereby halting the progression of the disease. There was still a great deal of neurological damage remaining which could not be reversed until new treatments were found to regenerate the myelin sheath (a lipid insulator) around the nerves.