Recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) is a genodermatosis caused by variants in COL7A1-encoded type VII collagen, a major component of anchoring fibrils. In this study, we developed an ex vivo gene therapy for RDEB using autologous mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). On the basis of our previous studies, we first attempted to isolate MSCs from the blister fluid of patients with RDEB and succeeded in obtaining cells with a set of MSC characteristics from all 10 patients. We termed these cells blister fluid-derived MSCs. Blister fluid-derived MSCs were genetically modified and injected into skins of type VII collagen-deficient neonatal mice transplanted onto immunodeficient mice, resulting in continuous and widespread expression of type VII collagen at the dermal-epidermal junction, particularly when administered into blisters. When injected intradermally, the efforts were not successful. The gene-modified blister fluid-derived MSCs could be cultured as cell sheets and applied to the dermis with an efficacy equivalent to that of intrablister administration. In conclusion, we successfully developed a minimally invasive and highly efficient ex vivo gene therapy for RDEB. This study shows the successful application of gene therapy in the RDEB mouse model for both early blistering skin and advanced ulcerative lesions.
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