Lorenzo’s oil is 4 parts of glyceryl trioleate and 1 part glyceryl trierucate, which are the triacylglycerol forms of oleic acid and erucic acid and are prepared from olive oil and rapeseed oil. It is used in the investigational treatment of asymptomatic patients with adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). The oil was formulated by Augusto and Michaela Odone after their son Lorenzo was diagnosed with the disease in 1984, at the age of five, with the actual production initially developed by retired British scientist Don Sudderby (formerly of Croda International). Sudderby and his colleague, Keith Coupland, received U.S. Patent No. 5,331,009 for the oil. The royalties received by Augusto were paid to the Myelin Project which he and Michaela founded to further research treatments for ALD and similar disorders. The Odones and their invention obtained widespread publicity in 1992 because of the film Lorenzo’s Oil.
Lorenzo's oil costs approximately US $440 for a month's treatment.
In the U.S., Lorenzo's oil is currently available to only the patients taking part in a clinical trial under the direction of the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Thus, Lorenzo's oil can be obtained only through prescription by Kennedy Krieger Institute authorized physicians. A 500-ml bottle costs approximately $56.00. Some insurance companies will provide coverage for the oil, but others do not because it is still considered an experimental drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Proposed mechanism of action
Lorenzo's oil, in combination with a diet low in VLCFA, has been investigated for its possible effects on the progression of ALD. Clinical results have been mixed and the use of Lorenzo's oil has been controversial due to uncertainties regarding its clinical efficacy and the clinical indications for its use.
Hugo Moser played a prominent role in both the treatment of Lorenzo Odone and the scientific evaluation of Lorenzo's oil. In 2005, Moser published a controlled study concluding that Lorenzo's oil does not alter the course of the illness in symptomatic patients, but asymptomatic patients had a reduced risk of developing ALD while on the dietary therapy. Moser appraised Lorenzo's oil again in a 2007 report.
A study by Poulos published in 1994 found that Lorenzo's oil is of limited value in correcting the accumulation of saturated VLCFAs in the brain of patients with ALD. Comparative autopsies showed that treatment enriched erucic acid in plasma and tissues, but not in the brain.
Erucic acid is considered to be a toxin, and its presence in the food supply is regulated. However, some of the early toxicological work was done on rats, before it was realized that some of the animal testing did not adequately simulate human consumption; see the discussion of health concerns of erucic acid consumption and the effects on health of mustard oil consumption. Mustard oil is often used for cooking in South Asian countries.
Dietary manipulation using Lorenzo's oil has been shown to lower blood levels of very-long-chain fatty acids, but it is ineffective in symptomatic ALD. However, studies by Dr. Hugo Moser have found evidence that use of the oil by asymptomatic patients may slightly delay the onset of symptoms.
- Shankar Vedantam. "A Real-Life Sequel to 'Lorenzo's Oil' - washingtonpost.com". Washington Post 2007-01-28. pp. A01. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
- The Telegraph - Lorenzo Odone obituary
- U.S. Patent 5,331,009: Pharmaceutical compositions for treating adrenoleukodystrophy. Issued July 19, 1994.
- "Lorenzo's Oil boy is dead at 30". BBC News. 31 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
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- "Lorenzo's Oil - The Oil, How to get the oil". The Myelin Project. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
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- Magnhild Rasmussen, Ann B. Moser, Janet Borel, Surinder Khangoora and Hugo W. Moser (Aug 1994). "Brain, liver, and adipose tissue erucic and very long chain fatty acid levels in adrenoleukodystrophy patients treated with glyceryl trierucate and trioleate oils (Lorenzo's Oil)". Neurochemical Research (Springer Netherlands) 19 (8): 1073–1082. doi:10.1007/BF00968719. PMID 800117.
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- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (June 2003) Erucic acid in food : A Toxicological Review and Risk Assessment . Technical report series No. 21; Page 4 paragraph 1; ISBN 0-642-34526-0, ISSN 1448-3017
- "Food Standards Agency - Agency issues warning on erucic acid". 2 September 2004. Retrieved 2007-11-02.