The doctors took a small sample of skin from one of the few places on the boy's body where it was not flaming red or flaking off, and sent it to De Luca. His team at the center used a virus to insert into the skin cells a correct copy of a gene called LAMB3; the boy's own defective copy had caused his epidermolysis bullosa. De Luca and his colleagues grew the skin cells over scaffolds in their lab to form large sheets, the way doctors often do for burn patients. In two surgeries in October and November 2015, the Italian and German teams covered the boy's limbs, sides and back with these sheets of fresh skin. After being too sick even to get out of bed before his surgeries, "he was standing up already by Christmas," De Luca says. In January 2016 the boy, whose name is not being released to protect his privacy, received a few more skin patches -- and in February he was released from the University Hospitals of the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.
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