Dr. Thomas Rea, a dermatologist whose discoveries led to treatments that allowed patients with Hansen's disease — leprosy — to live without stigma, has died. He was 86.
Rea died in his home in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains on Feb. 7 after a battle with cancer, said his son Steven Rea.
Rea and his colleague Dr. Robert Modlin nailed down the precise role played by the immune system in Hansen's disease symptoms such as skin lesions and growths. The immune connection had long been suspected but never previously explained.
Their work opened the door to new treatments that rendered the disease non-contagious and allowed patients to live normal lives.