Brain Gains

January 10, 2018 7:33 am Published by 7 Comments



Not many people in the west know much about Papua New Guinea.  It is, after all, just one island nation on the other side of the world. They aren’t generally known for their great cultural achievements, feats of engineering, or military power. One of the few things they are known for, however, is Papua New Guinea’s all-too-recent history of tribal cannibalism. The practice was finally outlawed in the 1950’s, and that’s good, but that isn’t the end of the story.

The Fore people, a once-isolated tribe in eastern PNG, had a long-standing tradition of feasting on their dead at funerals. While no doubt ghoulish to our eyes, it was even more terrible for the Fore than we might suspect. A disease known as Kuru – similar in many ways to Mad Cow disease – would kill as many as 2% of the population each year. Kuru was caused by eating the brains of the dead, an act which exposed the mourners and any other cannibals to strange, deformed proteins called prions (PREE-on’s).  The resulting disease caused neurological degeneration which was nearly always fatal.

In 2015, however, researchers completed a study on the Fore people, and their findings revealed a surprising genetic change among many members of that tribe. It turns out that, in spite of the many people among the Fore who contracted Kuru decades ago, many of them were highly resistant, or even immune to, Kuru. Having been exposed for untold generations to prions, many Fore who were susceptible to this disease had died of it before passing that susceptibility on to their children. Many Fore today have a genetic mutation which removes the conditions the prions exploit to cause Kuru, so they are immune, or nearly immune. That’s good news, but not very useful for people who aren’t Fore, right?

Wrong, actually. You see, Kuru is very similar to some other terrible diseases you may have heard of, such as Mad Cow Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and the fact that the Fore are highly resistant to Kuru means they may also be resistant to these more familiar, terrible afflictions. This new discovery will become a tool doctors can use in their battle against many degenerative neurological disorders.

How interesting is it that the horrible practice of cannibalism has been turned on its ear by God? Out of that dark cultural practice, He has brought the hope of healing.

Just the same old miracle He does every other day, turning weakness and pain into life and love and it all happened in my beloved Papua New Guinea!

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This post was written by Grace Fabian


  • Kathie McCall says:

    Wow Grace, how great is our God!

  • Paula Fox says:

    He makes even the wrath of man to praise Him. Truly nothing is beyond His redemptive power! Fascinating report, Grace!❤️ Paula

    • Grace Fabian says:

      My thoughts often turn to you. We ARE going to get together. My schedule is not going to be as heavy this year, and I’ve already got you on the list of people I plan to visit. That is a perfect verse, “He makes even the wrath of man to praise Him”, for that blog. Love, Grace!

  • kathy thomas says:

    Grace, that was very interesting about prions and cannibals..and how our God brings healing out of blackness..grace, will you pray for my husband Ned to be healed of such pain in his lower body…he is having a hard time walking…God bless you and thank-you for your precious blogs, in His hope, kathy thomas, woman to woman

    • Grace Fabian says:

      Thank you for your kind comments about my blog. I will keep you and your husband, Ned, in my prayers. May the Lord bring wholeness and health flowing through his body, and may you both know the peace that comes from His promises. Grace

  • carolyn fuller says:

    How very interesting and what a blessing. God does do all things well!!!!

    • Grace Fabian says:

      I just returned from a week long trip visiting three of my supporters and when I arrived home this afternoon, there was Charles’s letter and the two beautiful checks. They are safely deposited now so we’re not having a repeat of what happened last time. Grace

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Grace Fabian
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