80% of His Skin Had Been Lost. Doctors Grew Him a Replacement

Genetic treatment saved 7-year-old's life
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2017 4:24 AM CST
Doctors Grow Life-Saving Skin for Boy With Rare Disorder
Doctors lift up a sheet of skin in a lab at St. Josef-Hospital in Bochum, Germany.   (Mirko Wache/Ruhr University Bochum via AP)

A child who was expected to die from a devastating skin disease is alive today thanks to an experimental treatment that grew him a whole new skin. Hassan, a 7-year-old Syrian boy living in Germany, was born with a condition called epidermolysis bullosa that prevented the outer layer of skin from binding to the inner layer and left him with painful blisters starting when he was just a few days old, NPR reports. After skin grafts from the boy's father failed, doctors thought there was no hope, but they managed to save him with a treatment devised by scientists in Italy. A team led by Michele De Luca of the University of Modena repaired DNA from a sample of the boy's skin and was able to grow whole new sheets of epidermis.

In two operations, the Italian team was able to graft the healthy skin onto the boy, who was covered in bandages and only had patches of healthy skin on his head and left leg, the Guardian reports, noting 80% of his skin was gone. The team had never attempted the procedure on such a large scale before, but the transplant was a success. Two years later, the boy is living a normal life, attending school, and doesn't need to use medications or ointments. "Hassan feels like a normal person now, he plays, he's being active, he's enjoying his life, and he's not the way he was before," his father says, per the BBC. He says the change has been "like a dream." (More skin disorder stories.)

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