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Correction of junctional epidermolysis bullosa by transplantation of genetically modified epidermal stem cells

Nature Medicine volume 12, pages 13971402 (2006) | Download Citation



The continuous renewal of human epidermis is sustained by stem cells contained in the epidermal basal layer and in hair follicles1,2. Cultured keratinocyte stem cells, known as holoclones3,4,5,6, generate sheets of epithelium used to restore severe skin, mucosal and corneal defects7,8,9. Mutations in genes encoding the basement membrane component laminin 5 (LAM5) cause junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB), a devastating and often fatal skin adhesion disorder10. Epidermal stem cells from an adult patient affected by LAM5-β3–deficient JEB were transduced with a retroviral vector expressing LAMB3 cDNA (encoding LAM5-β3), and used to prepare genetically corrected cultured epidermal grafts. Nine grafts were transplanted onto surgically prepared regions of the patient's legs. Engraftment was complete after 8 d. Synthesis and proper assembly of normal levels of functional LAM5 were observed, together with the development of a firmly adherent epidermis that remained stable for the duration of the follow-up (1 year) in the absence of blisters, infections, inflammation or immune response. Retroviral integration site analysis indicated that the regenerated epidermis is maintained by a defined repertoire of transduced stem cells. These data show that ex vivo gene therapy of JEB is feasible and leads to full functional correction of the disease.

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We thank S. Bondanza for the clonal analysis of KEP25 keratinocytes shown in Figure 1b, K. Fleishauer for the HLA genotyping, and C. Rossi and D. Sartori for technical assistance. We also thank H. Green (Harvard Medical School) for providing the 3T3-J2 cells and G. Meneguzzi (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) U 634) for providing the K140 antibody to LAM5-β3 and performing the immunofluorescence shown in Figure 3d. This work was supported by grants from Telethon, AFM-Telethon and the European Commission (VI Framework Program, SKINTHERAPY).

Author information


  1. Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Via Campi 287, 41100 Modena, Italy.

    • Fulvio Mavilio
    • , Graziella Pellegrini
    • , Francesca Di Nunzio
    • , Alessandra Recchia
    • , Giulietta Maruggi
    •  & Michele De Luca
  2. Epithelial Stem Cell Research Center, Veneto Eye Bank Foundation, H. SS Giovanni and Paolo, Castello 6777, 30100 Venice, Italy.

    • Graziella Pellegrini
    • , Stefano Ferrari
    • , Enzo Di Iorio
    •  & Michele De Luca
  3. Istituto Scientifico H. San Raffaele-Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy (HSR-TIGET) and Vita-Salute University Istituto Scientifico H. San Raffaele, Via Olgettina 58, 20132 Milano, Italy.

    • Giuliana Ferrari
  4. Cancer Immunotherapy and Gene Therapy Program, Istituto Scientifico H. San Raffaele, Via Olgettina 58, 20132 Milano, Italy.

    • Elena Provasi
    •  & Chiara Bonini
  5. Division of Plastic Surgery, H. San Martino, Largo Rosanna Benzi 10, 16132 Genova, Italy.

    • Sergio Capurro
  6. Department of Internal Medicine, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Via del Pozzo 71, 41100 Modena, Italy.

    • Andrea Conti
    • , Cristina Magnoni
    •  & Alberto Giannetti


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F.M., G.P. and M.D.L. designed and directed the study. G.P carried out the clonal analysis, transduced the patient's cells and prepared the skin implants. S.F, F.D.N., E.D.I. and G.M. carried out the hystological and molecular follow-up, G.F. and F.M. constructed the retroviral vectors and the packaging cell line, E.P. and C.B. performed the immunological analysis, S.C., A.C., C.M. and A.G. carried out the transplantation and were responsible for the clinical management of the patient.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michele De Luca.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Fig. 1

    Regeneration of a genetically corrected epidermis.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Fig. 2

    Integration site analysis in cultured keratinocytes.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Table 1

    Complete list of retroviral integration sites in skin biopsies 1 and 4 months after transplantation

  4. 4.

    Supplementary Table 2

    Analysis of retroviral integration sites in skin biopsies

  5. 5.

    Supplementary Methods

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