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Science That Should Be Fiction – Meet the “Treeman”


A 36-year-old Indonesian man has a disease that is encasing his body in tree-like roots. That’s great for trick or treating as someone from the Forest of Cheem or Fangorn Forest. Not so great if you want to be a normal human being.

His name is Dede Kosawa but you probably know him as “the Treeman” and his transformation would make a perfect scifi-horror story — if it weren’t real. Everything was fine until, one day as a teenager, Kosawa cut his leg. Soon he noticed warts growing on his body and eventually it appeared as if his feet turned into roots and his arms were branches covered in bark. His limbs extend three feet and are growing at a rate of two inches a year. Left untreated, the bark like skin and “cutaneous horns” spreading upward and outward could cover his entire body.

Dr. Anthony Gaspari, an American dermatologist thinks he knows why. No — Dede is not an alien. Nor is it a case of teleportation gone wrong. (How did I not notice that Elm in my Telepod?) Dr. Gaspari, who traveled twice to Indonesia to treat Kosawa, believes it was the perfect storm created by a genetically inherited immune defect and a type of human papillomavirus, or HPV. “Here’s a man with chronic immune defect that had bad wart virus that went untreated for 20 years,” he said.

A new documentary, Treeman: Search for the Cure, follows Kosawa as he battles the virus to get his body back. His treatment includes taking vitamin A, trimming his tree (“He had insects living in the base of the wood-like material,” said Gaspari), and getting chemotherapy. After several surgeries, Kosawa is now able to walk, lift a fork and write. A happy ending? That remains to be seen. According to his doctor, “The story has not fully unfolded yet.” What will happen to Treeman? Only time will tell.

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