NEWS: Infant gets layer of bio-engineered skin

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (
Tue, 12 Jan 1999 16:11:05 -0500

Infant gets layer of bio-engineered skin

January 12, 1999
Web posted at: 12:36 p.m. EDT (1636 GMT)

MIAMI (AP) -- Eight-week-old Tori
Cameron was born with a rare and deadly
skin disease that causes severe blistering with the slightest touch. Patch by patch, she is receiving a new set of "skin" that doctors hope will prolong her life.

"She won't be cured," her mother, Lorraine Cameron, said Monday. "But
she could get better. It won't be an ongoing process where she will die from it."

Tori is believed to be the first newborn diagnosed with epidermolysis bullosa to be given bio-engineered skin called Apligraf. So far, her tiny body is 40 percent covered with Apligraf, and it has blended so well doctors say they can't tell the new skin from Tori's baby skin.

"We hope this skin will take over and teach the baby's skin cells to behave
normally," said Dr. William Eaglstein, chairman of dermatology for the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Skin created from foreskin cells

Tori is the first to be given the elastic material for something other than healing wounds or for venous leg ulcers, said Dr. Lawrence Schachner, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the university.

Doctors demonstrated the procedure Monday by applying a 7-centimeter patch of Apligraf to the blistered right calf of Tori, who is hospitalized at Jackson Children's Hospital.

Apligraf, developed by Massachusetts-based Organogenesis, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May.

The skin is made from a baby's foreskin, removed at circumcision, and with bovine collagen. Doctors can grow 200,000 units of Apligraf from a stamp-size piece of foreskin.

"A single foreskin can give you football fields of skin," Schachner said.

Baby's disease is painfully serious

Tori was born November 12 with Dowling Meara disease, a particularly lethal form of epidermolysis bullosa which affects 100,000 Americans.

Babies afflicted with the disorder are born lacking the necessary cells to hold their skin together and keep out bacteria and infections. The slightest friction can create painful blisters and lead to scarring, infections and raw spots similar to second-degree burns.

Tori's entire body is wrapped with gauze to minimize blistering and her hands and feet are protected to keep her from hurting herself.

Doctors have applied between 15 to 20 pieces of the laboratory-made skin to Tori by simply placing it on her body and holding it in place with Vaseline and gauze. Each segment comes from the same donor and costs $975 per patch.

"This is the best chance for this baby," Eaglstein said.

Alexander Chislenko <> <> <>