"This is the future, this is achievable," he said. "This type of widespread replacement of a patient's skin is feasible, and it can transform a patient's life."
Angela Christiano, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University in New York who studies genetic diseases of the skin, said the de Luca team's success offers a "transformative approach" to treating young patients with JEB and related conditions, which are estimated to affect more than 125,000 people in the United States.
Christiano added that the insights generated by what she called a "landmark paper" also will help a much larger patient population whose skin problems go much deeper and may not be helped by a transplant.
That includes some of the 40,000 people hospitalized with burns in the U.S. each year. Many burn victims suffer damage to the skin's deepest layers and cannot accept skin grafts without scarring.
"In a broader sense, for any epithelial tissue, it gives us a window into the cell behavior and how these cells behave after injury," she said. "It suggests things we can do to take advantage of that knowledge for wound healing."
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