A child in Germany who has a genetic disease that leaves his skin extremely fragile has been given genetically modified skin.
Hassan has junctional epidermolysis bullosa, which resulted in blisters and wounds all over his body a few days after he was born in Syria. The condition meant that his DNA lacked the proper instructions for his epidermis and dermis to bind together, the BBC reports.
There is no cure for the condition, and one in four patients don’t even make it to adolescence. But a piece of Hassan’s skin was taken, repaired in a laboratory, and grafted back onto his body. Now, two years after a series of life-saving surgeries, the new skin convers 80% of Hassan’s body, and appears to be completely normal.
The family’s details have been withheld, but Hassan’s father said the process has been “like a dream.” He said, “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.”
Hassan was at the Children’s Hospital at Ruhr-University, in Bochum, Germany in 2015, and was missing a large amount of his epidermis. His body appeared to be a raw, open wound. Dr. Tobias Hirsch said,
We initially decided to provide palliative care because we had no chance to save the life of this child.
A team of biologists who specialize in gene therapy came in from University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, and the boy’s parents agreed to an experimental therapy.
It took three operations for the graft to cover 80% of Hassan’s body, and spent months covered in bandages. However, 21 months later and the child’s body shows no signs of blistering.
Hirsch said, “The kid is now back to school, he plays soccer, so there was a tremendous increase in quality of life.”
The study on the procedure was published in the journal Nature.