Scientists grow genetically modified skin to save dying boy's life

Stem cells in a lab.
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A team of doctors in Germany and scientists in Italy were able to help a boy from Syria with a genetic disorder that left him with untreatable wounds covering 80 percent of his body.

The 7-year-old fled with his family from Syria to Germany in 2013, and by the time he started to receive treatment at Ruhr University Bochum, he was running out of time. He has a disease called junctional epidermolysis bullosa, caused by a mutation of the LAMB3 gene, which produces the protein that makes the top layer of skin connect to deeper layers underneath. The condition made his skin fragile and quick to blister, and his epidermis was still intact only on his head and a patch of his left leg. With all options exhausted, doctors reached out to scientists in Italy, asking if they could grow replacement skin for their young patient.

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