The incredible potential of adult stem cell treatments has once again been demonstrated, this time by a team of scientists in Germany.
Scientists have grown replacement skin for a seven-year-old boy suffering from a devastating genetic disorder.
The achievement is one of the most impressive examples of adult stem cell treatment, an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cell treatment which involves the destruction of unborn children.
The boy, from Syria, had lost 80 per cent of his skin and was covered in untreatable, infected wounds.
His doctors, at University Children’s Hospital, Bochum, were assisted by a team of Italian scientists who had grown new skin for small areas of the body before.
The Italian team took a sample from the boy’s remaining healthy skin and were able to create enough new skin to cover almost his entire body – a world first.
Two years on, the boy is doing well. Doctors say his skin is healthy and is able to heal and renew itself. He is even able to play football – something that would previously have been impossible.
Claire Higgins, a bioengineering lecturer at Imperial College London, described the trial as “a huge achievement and quite remarkable”.
The trial was also applauded by Prof Cédric Blanpain, a stem cell scientist at the Free University of Brussels.
He described it as one of the most impressive examples of the use of adult stem cells in history: “This is a beautiful example of something that was unthinkable before the study. To replace and gene-correct the whole skin of a patient is just amazing.”
Last year, an academic and stem cell expert said that: “Over 1.5 million patients have had their lives saved and health improved by adult stem cell transplants”.
Dr David Prentice, Research Director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, was challenging claims made in the New York Times that stem cell therapy is “still mostly theory”.
Pointing to their effectiveness in treating patients and the ethical manner in which they are obtained, compared to embryonic stem cells, Prentice described adult stem cells as the “true gold standard for stem cells”.