Boy is first in world to have whole body skin graft
A boy suffering from a devastating disease that left him covered in blisters and confined to a hospital bed is playing soccer after being fitted with an entirely new skin.
The seven- year- old German boy was born with the rare condition junctional epidermolysis bullosa, which causes skin to blister and tear at the slightest touch.
Although doctors in his home country had tried skin grafts taken from his father, none had been successful and he was forced to live in the burns unit at Bochum’s Children’s Hospital, in the Ruhr district, because most of his skin was missing or damaged.
In desperation doctors contacted experts in other countries, and f ound a group of Italian scientists who were experimenting with skin cell regeneration techniques.
In a world first, the team took a sample of skin just four square centimetres, extracted the stem cells, then genetically engineered them back into healthy cells.
The healthy tissue was then grown into large skin grafts that were used to replace 80 per cent of the boy’s skin in three operations.
His new skin no longer blisters and the youngster has been able to play soccer for the first time and enjoy the rough and tumble of a schoolboy’s life. Dr. Michele de Luca, from the University of Modena, Italy, who led the gene therapy team, said: “The patient was in danger of life. The prognosis was very poor, but he survived.
“He went back to normal life, including school and sports. His epidermis is stable; robust. It doesn’t blister at all.”
Scientists have previously only tried the technique for small areas, but the success proves that it could be used for larger areas, potentially offering hope for burns victims.