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U researchers make headlines around the world

Research by Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., and John E. Wagner, M.D., moved quickly from mouse studies in the laboratory to showing success in patients. (Photo: Emily Jensen)
Physician-scientists at the University of Minnesota have for the first time demonstrated that a lethal skin disease can be successfully treated with stem cell therapy.

Medical School researchers John E. Wagner, M.D., and Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D.—in collaboration with researchers in Oregon, the United Kingdom, and Japan—used stem cells from bone marrow to repair the skin of patients with a fatal disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (EB).

It’s the first time researchers have shown that bone marrow-derived stem cells can repair the skin and upper gastrointestinal tract and alter the natural course of the disease.

Until now, bone marrow has only been used to replace diseased or damaged marrow.

Tolar and Wagner’s research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was featured in hundreds of local, national, and international media, including the USA Today, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

“My hope is to do something that might change the natural history of this disease and enhance the quality of life of these kids,” Wagner says.

This research is supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health; the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare of Japan and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan; and the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, Epidermolysis Bullosa (Liao Family) Research Fund, Sarah Rose Mooreland EB Fund, and Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

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