October 25, 2013 / 8:33 PM / 6 years ago

Augusto Odone, maker of "Lorenzo's Oil," dies

ROME (Reuters) - Augusto Odone, whose invention of “Lorenzo’s Oil” to prolong the life of his son was made into an Oscar-nominated film, has died at the age of 80 in Italy, his family said on Friday.

He died on Thursday in the northern Piedmont region where he was born in 1933 and from where he left for America as a young man.

A former World Bank economist, Odone and his wife Michaela refused to accept the medical prognosis that their six-year-old son Lorenzo had only a few years to live after being diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, which destroys the brain cells of children.

In the early 1980s, they immersed themselves in medical research, and, with the help of a British chemist, produced a treatment distilled from olive oil and rapeseed oil.

The treatment, which became known as “Lorenzo’s Oil,” was fed to the boy and reduced the levels of the long-chain fatty acids which damaged brain cells in sufferers of ALD. Although he remained severely disabled, Lorenzo lived until he was 30.

Their story was made into the 1992 film “Lorenzo’s Oil,” starring Nick Nolte as Odone and Susan Sarandon as his wife.

Michaela died in 2000 at the age of 61.

The couple set up the Myelin Project, which promotes research on the repair of myelin, the sheath of neurons which is damaged by ALD. The oil does not repair myelin but can sometimes prevent the onset of the disease, according to the project’s website.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Barry Moody

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