Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Skin Replacement with Genetically-Modified Grafts

An epidermal sheet grown on a fibrin base, like the grafts used to heal a boy's skin in Germany. (Credit: CMR Unimore)

In 2015, a seven year old boy was admitted to a German hospital with severe lesions and blisters across his entire body. This boy suffered from a genetic condition called junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) that prevents the epidermis, the outer most layer of the skin from properly attaching to the underlying base. Because of this condition the boy is prone to easily damage his skin, this condition is caused by a mutation in one of three genes which causes a dificiency of protien laminin-33. It is said that people who suffer from this genetic conditon do not live pass adolescene. Once the the boy was admited and the doctors had taken a look at him, the odds of him surviving his injuries was very slim. The German doctors spoke to the boy's parents and notified them that there was a way to help him but that the method to aid his recovery had only been performed in a small scale. Even with gene therapy there woud not be a high success rate that the patient would make a full recovery.
Gene therapy was performed on the patient by taking undamaged section of his skin and using retrovirus to implant the correct DNA sequence in the skin cells. Once the implant was placed the cells were cultured to grow and the new skin was stiched to to sheets of protein fibrin grafts. Once the genetically modified grafts were ready for use, the doctors grafted them on the patients body. Because this procedure was the first one being conducted in such a large scale many were considered whether there would be any difficulties or future side effects to the patients body. Three years have past and the boy is living a normal life. Because of such positive results of the work done it can help researchers understand how the skin functions.



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