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Indonesian ‘tree man’ has bark-like growths

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An Indonesian man suffering from a rare skin condition that causes his body to be covered with tree-like growths may soon get help from an American doctor, according to a report in the British newspaper the Telegraph.

Dede, 35, who has gnarled growths sprouting from his hands and feet, has baffled medical experts since the warty "roots" began appearing after he injured himself as a teenager.

But dermatology expert Dr. Anthony Gaspari, a specialist in immunology and skin allergies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, told the newspaper that he can treat the condition.

After testing samples of the lesions and Dede's blood, Gaspari, who examined the villager as part of a documentary, concluded that the infection is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a fairly common condition that usually causes small warts to develop in the genital area.

However, a genetic flaw has prevented Dede's immune system from controlling the warts, allowing the virus to produce a substance that caused cutaneous horns on his feet and hands, the newspaper reports.

Gaspari told the newspaper that a course of synthetic vitamin A should clear up most of the massive warts and root-like tendrils that have left Dede unable to work.

Although the medical treatment won't give him a normal body, the growths should shrink enough that Dede could use his hands, the doctor told the Telegraph.

Despite his genetic condition, the villager has been otherwise healthy and has two children, ages 16 and 18. However, his wife has left him and his children have been brought up by extended family nearby, according to the paper.

The Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said that an Indonesian medical team would cooperate with Gaspari, but the minister also reportedly criticized the Discovery Channel, who produced the TV documentary, for exploiting the villager.