Badly burned man saved by skin from identical twin

Franck Dufourmantelle (right, in a handout photo) received life-saving grafts from his brother Eric (left).
Franck Dufourmantelle (right, in a handout photo) received life-saving grafts from his brother Eric (left).PHOTO: AFP

He was on brink of death with burns over 95% of body before getting skin transplant

PARIS - A man who suffered burns over 95 per cent of his body, putting him on the verge of death, was saved by a skin transplant from his identical twin in a world-first operation, French doctors said yesterday.

The 33-year-old man, identified only as Franck, received skin grafted from his brother Eric's scalp, back and thighs, reported Agence France-Presse.

The BBC reported that Franck underwent more than 10 graft operations during the 41/2 months he was in hospital. He was then able to be released to a rehabilitation centre.

His burnt skin was removed and he received thin layers of skin from Eric's scalp, back and thighs, which were stretched "like fishnet stockings", surgeon Maurice Mimoun of the Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris, where the surgery took place, told Le Monde newspaper.

Receiving a transplant from a genetically identical twin eliminates the risk of seeing the recipient's body reject "foreign" material from an unrelated donor.

Usually in burn cases, the skin of a dead donor is used, and the donor skin is typically rejected within weeks, reported Agence France-Presse. That is usually enough time for new skin to start growing or to be harvested from elsewhere on the patient's body.

Twin-on-twin skin transplants have been done before, but this was the first to cover such a large surface area, said Dr Mimoun.

The previous record for such transplants involved a case where about 68 per cent of the victim's body was burned.

Franck was admitted to hospital in September last year after being burned in a work accident, and the first graft from his twin was done a week later, followed by about a dozen procedures.

Today, "he is at home with his partner, he can get on with his activities, his face has healed well," Dr Mimoun said. It helped that Franck was in good health at the time of the accident and did not smoke, the surgeon told the BBC.

The skin's epidermis, tough and water resistant, protects the body from dehydration, injury and infection.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline 'Badly burned man saved by skin from identical twin'. Print Edition | Subscribe