A 7-year-old boy with untreatable wounds on his skin has had 80 percent of his skin replaced with a genetically modified epidermis, saving his life.
The boy has grown up with a life-threatening genetic disorder that has resulted in untreatable and infected wounds all over his body. Before the surgery to replace it, the boy had lost 80 percent of his skin to the disorder.
In 2015, doctors at a children’s hospital in Germany had done their best to at least make the boy comfortable after all other attempts to save him had failed.
The Syrian boy, known only as Hassan, suffers from junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB), a rare inherited skin disorder. According to IFL Science, people with the disorder suffer from genetic mutations on one of three genes, LAMC2, LAMA3 or LAMB3, which help to produce the laminin 332 protein. This is the protein that helps to attach the upper layers of skin to the deeper layers. Without it, sufferer’s skin can become blistered from just a small bump or friction.
A study was published in Nature examining this case, titled “Regeneration of the entire human epidermis using transgenic stem cells”. It explains that sufferers of JEB face devastating effects of the disease, including having trouble eating as blistering can also occur inside the body. There is no cure to the disease, and about 40 percent of children with the condition won’t survive their first year, with four in 10 patients won’t reach adolescence.
The genetically modified skin was grown in labs and took two months to be grafted onto the boy.
“The kid is now back to school. He plays soccer,” lead author Dr Tobias Hirsch, from the hospital, told BBC News.
“Today this treatment is not available and it is not going to be available in the next few months, but this is a massive advance in research and is going to give us hope going forward with gene therapy.”
Almost two years later, Hassan is doing well. He doesn’t need to take medicine, is doing well at his school in Germany, and his skin heals just like other healthy children.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 8, 2017