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Stem Cells Hold Long-Term Benefits for Human Skin Disease

Update Date: Dec 26, 2013 03:25 PM EST
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"We saw a whole degree Fahrenheit of difference between the hand-cooling with fluid group and the control group," said lead researcher Michael Sundeen. (Photo : Pixabay)

Human stem cell treatment can potentially treat genetic skin diseases, according to a new study.

While long-term clinical outcomes of stem cell-based gene therapy have been unclear, a new 7-year study of a patient with a genetic skin disorder known as epidermolysis bullosa revealed that skin stem cells not no adverse side effects and were sufficient to restore normal skin function.

"These findings pave the way for the future safe use of epidermal stem cells for combined cell and gene therapy of epidermolysis bullosa and other genetic skin diseases," senior study author Michele De Luca of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, said in a news release.

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In the study, researchers had took skin stem cells from the patient's palm, corrected the EB genetic defect in these cells, and then transplanted them into the patient's upper legs.

The findings revealed that the skin cells treatment resulted in long-term restoration of normal skin function in epidermolysis bullosa patients. Epidermolysis bullosa is a painful condition that causes the skin to be very fragile and blister easily. It can also lead to life-threatening infections.

Researchers said the patient's upper legs looked normal and did not show signs of blister. The patient also showed no signs of tumor development.

Researchers were surprised that a small number of transplanted stem cells were enough for long lasting skin regeneration. De Luca and her team found that the transplanted stem cells still retained molecular features of palm skin cells and did not adopt features of leg skin cells even after the patient had undergone about 80 cycles of renewal during this time period.

"This finding suggests that adult stem cells primarily regenerate the tissue in which they normally reside, with little plasticity to regenerate other tissues," De Luca concluded. "This calls into question the supposed plasticity of adult stem cells and highlights the need to carefully chose the right type of stem cell for therapeutic tissue regeneration."

The findings are published in the journal Cell Press.

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