Lifewatch: Epidermalysis Bullosa

WILMINGTON -- There is a painful and devastating skin condition that many people have never heard of, but once you see it you won't forget it.

The skin disease is called Epidermalysis Bullosa (EB), a condition that causes the skin to blister and fall off at the slightest touch.

In one family, two boys have the disease.

Nate Liao lives with constant, painful, blistering skin.  He and his brother Jake, 5 years old, have the worst form of the genetic skin disease.

Theresa Liao and her husband Roger both carry the gene for EB.  For two of their four sons it means enduring years of painful wounds that lead to an aggressive skin cancer.

There is no treatment for the disease.  Theresa can only bandage the boys from head to toe.  Already, Jake's fingers have fused together from repeated scarring and he has lost all of his toes.

"He had such severe problems with hands when he was born, you could literally blow on them and the skin would separate," said Teresa.

Teresa researched the disease and the possibility of a cure using stem cells.

Doctors at the University of Minnesota studied lab mice with EB.  The mice, like the brothers, lack a protein that keeps skin together.

Doctors infused healthy stem cells with bone marrow transplants into the sick mice, and the blisters disappeared.

After the success in the lab, Nate became the first human to receive a bone marrow transplant to treat EB.  His healthy brother Jullian, 3 years old, was the donor.

It will be several more weeks before doctors know if the stem cell treatment worked, but Theresa thinks Nate will has shown some improvement.  Whether or not it works for the Liao family, doctors believe this could help people with a variety of skin diseases.

For more information about the skin disease, click here.

Reported by Kristy Ondo