Scientists reported Wednesday that they genetically modified stem cells to grow skin that they successfully grafted over nearly all of a child's body — a remarkable achievement that could revolutionize treatment of burn victims and people with skin diseases.
The research, published in the journal Nature, involved a 7-year-old boy who suffers from a genetic disease known as junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) that makes skin so fragile that minor friction such as rubbing causes the skin to blister or come apart.
By the time the boy arrived at Children's Hospital of Ruhr-University in Germany in 2015, he was gravely ill. Doctors noted that he had “complete epidural loss” on about 60 percent of his body surface area, was in so much pain that he was on morphine, and fighting off a systemic staph infection. The doctors tried everything they could think of: antibiotics, changing dressings, grafting skin donated by his father. But nothing worked, and they told his parents to prepare for the worst.