Courtesy Esther17First of all, the photo posted here has nothing to do with the story. It’s just something to look at. What you should do is go to the original article, and look long and hard at the pictures there. Then you’ll have a nice visual reference, as well as something to keep you awake for the rest of your life.
But here’s the story: ever since a teenage accident in which he received a cut on the knee, an Indonesian man has been growing bizarre root-like projections from his hands and feet. Seriously, check out that
One would like to imagine that root hands and feet would be accompanied with super powers (super strength, nourishment from the ground, the ability to tear down the walls of Isengard, etc.), but this man had no such luck. Instead, his wife left him, and he’s no longer able to use his hands for much of anything (not exactly super powers).
Recently, however, a dermatological specialist from the University of Maryland traveled to the man’s village to examine his case. After testing his blood and samples of the growths, the doctor has concluded that the “roots” are in fact lesions caused by HPV, the Human papillomavirus. They’re warts, more or less.
HPV gets some attention here on Science Buzz, but usually in reference to its association with cervical cancer. Fortunately, this is a little different, and a lot more rare. The HPV is a normal strain, but this particular guy has a genetic fault that impedes his immune system (so much so that the doctor initially thought that he might have the AIDS), and prevents his body from containing the warts. So they just kept on growing, to the point where they could be considered “cutaneous horns.”
Cutaneous horns don’t generally develop past normal warts on humans, obviously. However, Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (yes, a real thing, which I will mentally file next to Wobbly hedgehog syndrome) can cause that sort of thing on rabbits. Advanced CRPV (also known as shope papillomavirus) can even look like little bunny horns, or antlers, which probably gave rise to the legend (if you want to call it that) of the Jackalope. The SMM had a stuffed rabbit with shope papillomavirus on display recently, but if you missed it you can check out some pictures here.
In the case of the “Tree Man,” the doctor thinks that daily doses of synthesized vitamin A (often used for severe cases of HPV) should clear up the bulk of the growths, and the more resilient warts could be removed by freezing or surgery. It’s unlikely that the man will ever have a completely “normal” body, but hopefully this treatment should allow him use of his hands again.
Isn’t that all unusual?