Individuals with a rare skin disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) can improve their condition with the transfer of bone marrow stem cells. A team of medical researchers has found that bone marrow stem cells can effectively treat the disease and help to repair the skin and speed up the healing process. This skin disease cannot be treated with conventional dermatology procedures.
The results of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in the middle of August 2010, and until now, there ha s not been any treatment or chance of a cure for RDEB. The study is the first of its kind that shows how bone marrow stem cells can adapt to the skin tissues and upper gastrointestinal tract, and help to slow down the progression of the disease.
Dr. John E. Wagner of the University of Minnesota Medical School, and director or pediatric blood and marrow transplantation, as well as the clinical director of the Stem Cell Institute, states, “whether the stem cells from marrow could repair tissues other than itself has been quite controversial…but in 2007, we found a rare subpopulation of marrow stem cells that could repair the skin in laboratory models. This astounding finding compelled us to test these stem cells in humans. This has never been done before.” (Source: MedicalNewsToday.com)
The stem cells found in bone marrow are capable of traveling to the areas of injured skin, which in turn helps to trigger collagen production. Collagen production is necessary to strengthen the skin, and is particularly valuable for patients who have been diagnosed with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. Patients who have this disease can now be cured with a bone marrow transplant and stem cell transfers.
Researchers concluded that further studies need to be done to test the efficacy of stem cell transfer and to assess the long-term risks involved with the treatment. Still, this recent discovery is showing very promising results.