The story of Dede’s condition begins 30 years ago when he was 10 years old. Whilst out in the forest near his home on the island of Java in Indonesia, Dede cut his knee whilst out in the forest. Shortly afterwards, small warts sprouted around the wound, which eventually spread to his feet and hands.
As he grew older, his warts continued to grow. Eventually the sheer number and size of them meant that his ability to carry out his job as a tradesman suffered, and though the warts didn’t hurt or itch, they gave off a sickening odour. At 28, Dede’s wife of 10 years left him as he became unable to work to support her and their two children.
Dede ended up travelling with a circus to earn a living. It was whilst he was there, that a photo of him posted online attracted the attention of a group of documentary makers who sought the advice of dermatologist Anthony Gaspari, about what was causing his condition.
The cause of the condition is an inactivating HP mutation in either the EVER1 or EVER2 genes, which are located adjacent to one another on chromosome 17. The precise function of these genes is not yet fully understood, but they play a role in regulating the distribution of zinc in the cell nucleus. It has been shown that zinc is a necessary cofactor for many viral proteins, and that the activity of EVER1/EVER2 complex appears to restrict the access of viral proteins to cellular zinc stores, limiting their growth.
Dede suffered from a tongue-twister of a disease known as Epidermodysplasia verruciformis. What this means is that he has an abnormal susceptibility to human pappilomaviruses. Human pappilomaviruses (HPVs) are extremely easy to contract, and it has been suggested that up to 80% of people may be infected, though they show no symptoms. There are around 200 known types of HPV, but the majority have no noticeable affect. In rare instances, it can lead to certain forms of cancer, but the most common result of an HPV infection is your simple, everyday wart.
For 20 years, the case has baffled doctors. While scientists understand the cause of his problem, nobody has been able to truly cure it yet. In 2007, Dede made international news when he hit the Internet and was featured in “My Shocking Story” on the Discovery Channel and TLC. (This show is “Extraordinary People” in the United Kingdom.) Later, in 2008, he was the subject of an episode of the popular program “Medical Mystery” as well.
The "Tree Man of Java" is now able to send text messages and eat from his hands after operations to remove growths from his hands and feet.