Surgeons use stem cells to replace 80% of child's damaged skin

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Physicians in Europe successfully treated a child with excessive skin damage with genetically modified transplanted stem cells, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

The team, consisting of physicians from the burn unit at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany and the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Modena in Italy, became the first to successfully perform such a treatment. The patient was a young German boy with the genetic skin disease epidermolysis bullosa, which had destroyed 80 percent of his epidermis. After established therapies failed to produce results, the medical team opted to try the experimental treatment. 

The treatment involved the use of epidermal stem cells obtained from the patient during a biopsy. The stem cells were then modified to allow for transplantation. In October 2015, the team initiated the transplant. In February 2016, the patient was discharged. Today, the child attends school and actively participates in his family's social life. No scar contractures have developed in transplanted areas.

"Overall, 0.94 square meters of transgenic epidermis were transplanted onto the young patient in order to cover all defects, accounting for 80 percent of his entire body surface," said Tobias Hirsch, head consultant at the department of plastic surgery at Ruhr-Universität. "This approach has enormous potential for research into and development of new therapies for the treatment of epidermolysis bullosa as well as other diseases and trauma causing large skin defects."

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