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New Skin

A young boy with a rare genetic disease that caused him to have blisters and sores over much of his skin has received genetically engineered skin, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The boy inherited junctional epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic disease caused by mutations in the genes that encode laminin-332: LAMA3, LAMB3, or LAMC2. While the disease is often fatal in the first few years of life, the boy outlived that expectation, the LA Times says, until he developed infections in the blisters and sores that covered 60 percent of his body, and it appeared that he was dying.

A team of German and Italian researchers and clinicians, though, collected healthy skin cells from the boy to establish keratinocyte cultures. As they report in Nature this week, the researchers introduced a virus with wild-type LAMB3 cDNA into these cells and grew them up into sheets of skin. These corrected skin cells were than grafted onto the boy.

Two years later, the LA Times says the boy plays and gets bumps and bruises that heal just as any other boy's would.

"We think the graft will stay forever," senior author Michele de Luca from the University of Modena tells the paper. "This is going to be a stable situation." She adds, though, that the boy will susceptible to lesions inside his mouth and other spots where the grafts weren't possible.

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