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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 12, @10:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the Nu-Skin dept.

'Butterfly child' given life-saving skin

A child has been given a new genetically modified skin that covers 80% of his body, in a series of lifesaving operations. Hassan, who lives in Germany, has a genetic disease - junctional epidermolysis bullosa - that leaves his skin as fragile as a butterfly's wings. A piece of his skin was taken, its DNA was repaired in the laboratory and the modified skin grafted back on. After nearly two years, the new skin appears completely normal.

[...] Normally, the different layers of the skin are held together by "anchoring proteins". But the junctional epidermolysis bullosa means Hassan's DNA lacks the instructions for sticking his epidermis (the surface layer) to the dermis (the next one down). There is no cure, and about four in 10 patients do not even reach adolescence.

[...] [A] team of biologists specialising in gene therapy were brought in from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, in Italy - and the parents gave approval for them to try an experimental therapy.

In September 2015, a 4 sq cm (0.6 sq inches) patch of skin was taken from an area where the epidermis was still intact. The biopsy was then infected with a customised virus. Viruses are good at getting inside cells, and this one contained the missing instructions for binding the layers of skin together.

The now genetically modified skin cells were grown to make skin grafts totalling 0.85 sq m (9 sq ft). It took three operations over that winter to cover 80% of the child's body in the new skin. Hassan's father said his son had spent months covered in so many bandages he had looked like a mummy. But 21 months later, the skin is functioning normally with no sign of blistering. You can even pinch the once incredibly fragile skin, with no sign of damage.

[...] An analysis of the structure of Hassan's skin, detailed in the journal Nature [DOI: 10.1038/nature24487] [DX], has discovered a group of long-lived stem cells are that constantly renewing his genetically modified skin.

Also at NYT and The Washington Post (archive).

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by LVDOVICVS on Sunday November 12, @11:28PM (2 children)

    by LVDOVICVS (6131) on Sunday November 12, @11:28PM (#596013)

    If you don't know about this disease, this will fill you in. But be warned; whatever you think is hard in your life isn't. And perhaps like me whenever you think of this boy in the future, or children with this disease, you may find a tear in your eye, and an ache in your heart. I first saw this a year or two ago and still find it very difficult to watch. []

    • (Score: 3, Troll) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday November 13, @04:38AM

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Monday November 13, @04:38AM (#596067)

      Shit like this is why I believe the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God is either mythical, or else it is every morally-upright soul's solemn duty to go all Shin Megami Tensei on its ass if it exists. Evidential Problem of Evil is a bitch.

    • (Score: 2) by linkdude64 on Monday November 13, @04:50PM

      by linkdude64 (5482) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 13, @04:50PM (#596289)

      What the young man was saying in the video, and how he said it, reaffirmed my belief that there is a direct correlation between pain and strength of character. As you say, it seems to separate what is important, what is difficult, and what isn't very quickly and reliably.