People of Umatac could be key to unlocking mystery - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

People of Umatac could be key to unlocking mystery

by Krystal Paco

Guam - It's a deadly combination of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease. Lytico-Bodig, as it's diagnosed, is one hundred to four hundred times more common here on Guam than in any place in the world affecting only the residents of the southern village of Umatac.

"People have been studying it because if they can find out what the cause of Lytico-Bodig on this very small island of Guam in a very small village like Umatac that we could find the causes and cures for diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Lou Gehrig's disease all over the world," said Berry Minott. Documenting the hunt on our treasure island, "The Illness and the Odyssey", Minnott, the producer and director, said, "What I love about my film is that its about the scientific process in action. We see these competing scientists trying to find the answer with the stakes high one of them would be a medical hero there are a lot of egos that are battling each other."

One by one, scientists prove their hypothesis wrong, as toxins, cycads, bats, and even contaminated water and soil are ruled out. For neurologist John Steele, who practices locally, it's been his life's mission to find answers. "In these diseases, Alzhymers, Parkinsons, ALS, what happens is that a protein misforms and it gains the body then it spreads to the brain and that abnormal protein causes other proteins to begin to misform and slowly year by year these abnormal proteins transform normal proteins so that the cells become stuffed with protein and gunk and they stop working," he said.

But what's more mysterious? Steele reports the disease suddenly disappeared with no one born after 1950 affected, even if it ran in their family for generations.

On the flipside, the three related diseases are more prevalent around the world than ever before.

The documentary screens tonight as part of the Third Annual Guam International Film Festival at the Agana Stadium Theaters and again before members of the Guam Medical Association Health Innovations Conference next Saturday. 

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