Clinical trial of ABCB5+ mesenchymal stem cells for recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa

JCI Insight. 2021 Nov 22;6(22):e151922. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.151922.


BACKGROUNDRecessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) is a rare, devastating, and life-threatening inherited skin fragility disorder that comes about due to a lack of functional type VII collagen, for which no effective therapy exists. ABCB5+ dermal mesenchymal stem cells (ABCB5+ MSCs) possess immunomodulatory, inflammation-dampening, and tissue-healing capacities. In a Col7a1-/- mouse model of RDEB, treatment with ABCB5+ MSCs markedly extended the animals' lifespans.METHODSIn this international, multicentric, single-arm, phase I/IIa clinical trial, 16 patients (aged 4-36 years) enrolled into 4 age cohorts received 3 i.v. infusions of 2 × 106 ABCB5+ MSCs/kg on days 0, 17, and 35. Patients were followed up for 12 weeks regarding efficacy and 12 months regarding safety.RESULTSAt 12 weeks, statistically significant median (IQR) reductions in the Epidermolysis Bullosa Disease Activity and Scarring Index activity (EBDASI activity) score of 13.0% (2.9%-30%; P = 0.049) and the Instrument for Scoring Clinical Outcome of Research for Epidermolysis Bullosa clinician (iscorEB‑c) score of 18.2% (1.9%-39.8%; P = 0.037) were observed. Reductions in itch and pain numerical rating scale scores were greatest on day 35, amounting to 37.5% (0.0%-42.9%; P = 0.033) and 25.0% (-8.4% to 46.4%; P = 0.168), respectively. Three adverse events were considered related to the cell product: 1 mild lymphadenopathy and 2 hypersensitivity reactions. The latter 2 were serious but resolved without sequelae shortly after withdrawal of treatment.CONCLUSIONThis trial demonstrates good tolerability, manageable safety, and potential efficacy of i.v. ABCB5+ MSCs as a readily available disease-modifying therapy for RDEB and provides a rationale for further clinical evaluation.TRIAL NCT03529877; EudraCT 2018-001009-98.FUNDINGThe trial was sponsored by RHEACELL GmbH & Co. KG. Contributions by NYF and MHF to this work were supported by the NIH/National Eye Institute (NEI) grants RO1EY025794 and R24EY028767.

Keywords: Adult stem cells; Clinical Trials; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / metabolism*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa Dystrophica / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Young Adult


  • ABCB5 protein, mouse
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B

Associated data

  • EudraCT/2018-001009-98