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J Invest Dermatol. 2012 May;132(5):1374-83. doi: 10.1038/jid.2011.477. Epub 2012 Feb 9.

Natural gene therapy may occur in all patients with generalized non-Herlitz junctional epidermolysis bullosa with COL17A1 mutations.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Mutations in the type XVII collagen gene (COL17A1) result in the blistering disorder non-Herlitz junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB-nH). The incidence of revertant mosaicism, also called "natural gene therapy", was identified in a cohort of 14 patients with JEB-nH caused by COL17A1 mutations in the Netherlands. Five different in vivo reversions, all correcting the germ-line COL17A1 mutation c.2237delG in exon 30, were found in four mosaic JEB-nH patients. The correcting DNA changes involved a wide variety of somatic mutations, from which an indel mutation (c.2228-101_2263+70delins15) and a large deletion of 2,165 base pairs (c.2227+153_2336-318del) have not been previously observed in patients with revertant mosaicism. Our results show that there is no preference for a repair mechanism. Moreover, revertant mosaicism was confirmed on a DNA level in 6 out of 10 generalized JEB-nH patients. Further, photo-material and clinical history of the other four generalized JEB-nH patients demonstrated that each patient has revertant skin patches. In contrast, revertant mosaicism was not detected in the four localized JEB-nH patients. The fact that so many, if not all, generalized JEB-nH COL17A1 patients have revertant patches offers opportunities for cell therapies in which the patient's own naturally corrected cells are used as a source.

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