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Concept: Epidermolysis bullosa


Blistering in epidermolysis bullosa simplex type Dowling-Meara (EBS-DM) is associated with an inflammatory phenotype, which can be disrupted by diacerein in vitro. In this pilot study we hypothesized, that a topical formulation of diacerein 1% reduces blistering. Five patients initially applied diacerein underneath both armpits. Then, each participant received 1% diacerein-cream for one armpit, and placebo for the other (randomized withdrawal). The number of blisters was reduced significantly (left: -78%; right: -66% of baseline) within two weeks and remained significantly below the initial level even during withdrawal in four patients. These findings point to a relevant effect of diacerein and provide important information for a confirmative study.

Concepts: Typography, Typeface, Axilla, Epidermolysis bullosa


Junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) is a severe and often lethal genetic disease caused by mutations in genes encoding the basement membrane component laminin-332. Surviving patients with JEB develop chronic wounds to the skin and mucosa, which impair their quality of life and lead to skin cancer. Here we show that autologous transgenic keratinocyte cultures regenerated an entire, fully functional epidermis on a seven-year-old child suffering from a devastating, life-threatening form of JEB. The proviral integration pattern was maintained in vivo and epidermal renewal did not cause any clonal selection. Clonal tracing showed that the human epidermis is sustained not by equipotent progenitors, but by a limited number of long-lived stem cells, detected as holoclones, that can extensively self-renew in vitro and in vivo and produce progenitors that replenish terminally differentiated keratinocytes. This study provides a blueprint that can be applied to other stem cell-mediated combined ex vivo cell and gene therapies.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cell, In vivo, In vitro, Epidermis, Epidermolysis bullosa


Type VII collagen (Col7) is the major component of anchoring fibrils and very important for skin integrity. This is emphasized by the Col7 related skin blistering diseases dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa and epidermolysis bullosa acquisita. Structural data that provides insights into the interaction network of Col7 and thus providing a basis for a better understanding of the pathogenesis of the diseases is missing. We proved that the von-Willebrand-factor A like domain 2 (vWFA2) of Col7 is responsible for type I collagen binding. The interaction has a K(D) value of 90 μM as determined by SPR and is enthalpy driven as derived from the van’t Hoff equation. Furthermore, a hitherto unknown interaction of this domain with type IV collagen was identified. The interaction of vWFA2 with type I collagen is sensitive to the presence of magnesium ions, however, vWFA2 does not contain a magnesium binding site thus magnesium must bind to type I collagen. A lysine residue has been identified to be crucial for type I collagen binding. This allowed localization of the binding site. Mutational analysis suggests different interaction mechanisms in different species and that these interactions might be of covalent nature.

Concepts: Protein, Collagen, Atom, Epidermolysis bullosa, Structural proteins, Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, Epidermolysis bullosa dystrophica, Van 't Hoff equation


There is a widespread agreement from patient and professional organisations alike that the safety of stem cell therapeutics is of paramount importance, particularly for ex vivo autologous gene therapy. Yet current technology makes it difficult to thoroughly evaluate the behaviour of genetically corrected stem cells before they are transplanted. To address this, we have developed a strategy that permits transplantation of a clonal population of genetically corrected autologous stem cells that meet stringent selection criteria and the principle of precaution. As a proof of concept, we have stably transduced epidermal stem cells (holoclones) obtained from a patient suffering from recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. Holoclones were infected with self-inactivating retroviruses bearing a COL7A1 cDNA and cloned before the progeny of individual stem cells were characterised using a number of criteria. Clonal analysis revealed a great deal of heterogeneity among transduced stem cells in their capacity to produce functional type VII collagen (COLVII). Selected transduced stem cells transplanted onto immunodeficient mice regenerated a non-blistering epidermis for months and produced a functional COLVII. Safety was assessed by determining the sites of proviral integration, rearrangements and hit genes and by whole-genome sequencing. The progeny of the selected stem cells also had a diploid karyotype, was not tumorigenic and did not disseminate after long-term transplantation onto immunodeficient mice. In conclusion, a clonal strategy is a powerful and efficient means of by-passing the heterogeneity of a transduced stem cell population. It guarantees a safe and homogenous medicinal product, fulfilling the principle of precaution and the requirements of regulatory affairs. Furthermore, a clonal strategy makes it possible to envision exciting gene-editing technologies like zinc finger nucleases, TALENs and homologous recombination for next-generation gene therapy.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cell, Collagen, Cell biology, Epidermolysis bullosa, Epidermolysis bullosa dystrophica


The prokaryotic CRISPR/Cas9 system has recently emerged as a powerful tool for genome editing in mammalian cells with the potential to bring curative therapies to patients with genetic diseases. However, efficient in vivo delivery of this genome editing machinery and indeed the very feasibility of using these techniques in vivo remain challenging for most tissue types. Here, we show that nonreplicable Cas9/sgRNA ribonucleoproteins can be used to correct genetic defects in skin stem cells of postnatal recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) mice. We developed a method to locally deliver Cas9/sgRNA ribonucleoproteins into the skin of postnatal mice. This method results in rapid gene editing in epidermal stem cells. Using this method, we show that Cas9/sgRNA ribonucleoproteins efficiently excise exon80, which covers the point mutation in our RDEB mouse model, and thus restores the correct localization of the collagen VII protein in vivo. The skin blistering phenotype is also significantly ameliorated after treatment. This study provides an in vivo gene correction strategy using ribonucleoproteins as curative treatment for genetic diseases in skin and potentially in other somatic tissues.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Organism, Collagen, Epidermolysis bullosa


Susceptibility to chronic inflammatory diseases is determined by immunogenetic and environmental risk factors. Resident microbial communities often differ between healthy and diseased states, but whether these differences are of primary aetiological importance or secondary to the altered inflammatory environment remains largely unknown. Here we provide evidence for host gene-microbiota interactions contributing to disease risk in a mouse model of epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, an autoantibody-induced inflammatory skin disease. Using an advanced intercross, we identify genetic loci contributing to skin microbiota variability, susceptibility to skin blistering and their overlap. Furthermore, by treating bacterial species abundances as covariates with disease we reveal a novel disease locus. The majority of the identified covariate taxa are characterized by reduced abundance being associated with increased disease risk, providing evidence of a primary role in protection from disease. Further characterization of these putative probiotic species or species assemblages offers promising potential for preventative and therapeutic treatment development.

Concepts: Inflammation, Medicine, Archaea, Epidemiology, Disease, Bacteria, Infection, Epidermolysis bullosa


Type XVII collagen (COL17) is a transmembrane protein located at the epidermal basement membrane zone. COL17 deficiency results in premature hair aging phenotypes and in junctional epidermolysis bullosa. Here, we show that COL17 plays a central role in regulating interfollicular epidermis (IFE) proliferation. Loss of COL17 leads to transient IFE hypertrophy in neonatal mice owing to aberrant Wnt signaling. The replenishment of COL17 in the neonatal epidermis of COL17-null mice reverses the proliferative IFE phenotype and the altered Wnt signaling. Physical aging abolishes membranous COL17 in IFE basal cells because of inactive atypical protein kinase C signaling and also induces epidermal hyperproliferation. The overexpression of human COL17 in aged mouse epidermis suppresses IFE hypertrophy. These findings demonstrate that COL17 governs IFE proliferation of neonatal and aged skin in distinct ways. Our study indicates that COL17 could be an important target of anti-aging strategies in the skin.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Signal transduction, Collagen, Cell membrane, Protein kinase, Keratin, Epidermolysis bullosa


Recent generation of patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (PS-iPSCs) provides significant advantages for cell- and gene-based therapy. Establishment of iPSC-based therapy for skin diseases requires efficient methodology for differentiating iPSCs into both keratinocytes and fibroblasts, the major cellular components of the skin, as well as the reconstruction of skin structures using these iPSC-derived skin components. We previously reported generation of keratinocytes from human iPSCs for use in the treatment of recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) caused by mutations in the COL7A1 gene. Here, we developed a protocol for differentiating iPSCs into dermal fibroblasts, which also produce type VII collagen and therefore also have the potential to treat RDEB. Moreover, we generated in vitro 3D skin equivalents composed exclusively human iPSC-derived keratinocytes and fibroblasts for disease models and regenerative therapies for skin diseases, first demonstrating that iPSCs can provide the basis for modeling a human organ derived entirely from two different types of iPSC-derived cells.

Concepts: Cell, Collagen, Stem cell, Organ, Skin, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Epidermolysis bullosa, Epidermolysis bullosa dystrophica


A 50-year-old man presented with tense noninflammatory bullae and erosions on trauma-prone areas of skin and the mucosae. There was also atrophic scarring, milia formation, onychodystrophy, and anonychia.

Concepts: Collagen, Skin, Epidermolysis bullosa, Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita


The extracellular matrix protein collagen VII is part of the microenvironment of stratified epithelia and critical in organismal homeostasis. Mutations in the encoding gene COL7A1 lead to the skin disorder dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DEB), are linked to skin fragility and progressive inflammation-driven fibrosis that facilitates aggressive skin cancer. So far, these changes have been linked to mesenchymal alterations, the epithelial consequences of collagen VII loss remaining under-addressed. As epithelial dysfunction is a principal initiator of fibrosis, we performed a comprehensive transcriptome and proteome profiling of primary human keratinocytes to generate global and detailed images of dysregulated epidermal molecular pathways linked to loss of collagen VII. These revealed downregulation of interaction partners of collagen VII on mRNA and protein level, but also increased abundance of S100 pro-inflammatory proteins in primary DEB keratinocytes. Increased TGF-β signaling due to loss of collagen VII was associated with enhanced activity of lysosomal proteases in both keratinocytes and skin of collagen VII-deficient individuals. Thus, loss of a single structural protein, collagen VII, has extra- and intracellular consequences, resulting in inflammatory processes that enable tissue destabilization and promote keratinocyte-driven, progressive fibrosis.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Skin, Epidermolysis bullosa, Fibronectin, Epidermolysis bullosa dystrophica