Fall 2020

For persistent wounds, a living bandage

Children facing a devastating skin disease find hope in another U of M life-changing treatment: epidermal skin grafting

Life is painful for children who have epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare genetic disease characterized by fragile skin that blisters easily, tears, and even sloughs off. 

Many children with EB deal with devastating wounds that never heal, risking infection.

Until recently, the only treatments available were bandages, antibiotics, and painkillers. Just over a decade ago, physician-scientists at the University of Minnesota Medical School pioneered the use of blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) as a treatment for EB. Now, the team has developed another breakthrough treatment: epidermal skin grafting.

Kajetan Lipowicz, age 7, “can’t wait” for his next CelluTome treatment to heal more of his wounds, his mother says.

The CelluTome system allows healthy skin to be harvested from a donor (via a painless, bloodless, scar-free patch of tiny skin punches) and then applied as a living bandage to the patient to help heal persistent wounds.

Beata Kwiatek was quick to sign up to be a donor for her son, 7-year-old Kajetan Lipowicz (left), who traveled from Poland for EB treatment at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. Following two BMTs, Kajetan’s first experimental CelluTome treatment was in June 2017. After a few weeks, the wounds had healed.

“Today, he can’t wait for another CelluTome to heal more wounds,” says Kwiatek, who now brings her son back to Minnesota occasionally for treatments.

Thanks to the generosity of the Minnesota-based Wasie Foundation, a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $250,000, will accelerate progress on this promising treatment and allow more children like Kajetan to benefit from it. CarVal Investors Foundation recently stepped forward with a $10,000 gift to the effort.

The therapy could be beneficial for other types of wounds such as burns and diabetic ulcers as well.

“We love CelluTome,” Kwiatek says. “This is our biggest hope.”