News / Health

Scientists Discover Potential Treatment to Reverse Unsightly Skin Disorder

FILE - Detroit anchor and reporter Lee Thomas suffers from vitiligo.
FILE - Detroit anchor and reporter Lee Thomas suffers from vitiligo.
TEXT SIZE - +
Jessica Berman
Researchers have developed a genetically modified protein that, in experiments with animals, reverses vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder that causes large patches of unsightly discoloration on the skin.  

Vitiligo affects an estimated 1 in 200 people worldwide. The autoimmune disorder is most dramatic in darker-skinned individuals because of the patchy loss of brown pigment.  But it also can affect people with lighter complexions.  

There is no successful treatment.  Steroid creams are largely ineffective, and skin grafts are painful and expensive.

The depigmentation is the result of an immune system attack on melanocytes, cells responsible for skin color. Caroline Le Poole, a researcher with Loyola University in Chicago, says people usually develop the disorder after an extreme environmental exposure or trauma.

“They would for example go on a very sunny vacation and come back and then all of a sudden it starts taking off," said Le Poole. "Or they were maybe bitten by a dog and then it starts from there.  But there’s even psychological factors that also come into play.”

Such as the loss of a job or a loved one. Le Poole and her colleagues discovered how a stress protein called “heat shock protein 70,” plays a role in triggering vitiligo.  

That stress protein, also called HSP, kicks the body’s natural immunity into overdrive in some individuals, targeting and killing skin pigment cells.  

Researchers made the discovery while studying ways to direct immune system T cells against melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.  By genetically modifying HSP, scientists say they also were able to switch off the body’s attack on the pigment cells.

In experiments on black mice, co-researcher Jose Alejandro Guevara says scientists were able to change the animals’ fur color by genetically manipulating their HSP.

“When we treated [them] to induce vitiligo they turned white; and when we treated [the mice] with the mutant HSP [protein] we prevent[ed] that," said Guevara.

Scientists also saw the patchy white fur of mice with vitiligo transform to black after the animals were vaccinated with the modified stress protein, which calmed the immune attack.  Experiments using human skin tissue samples also showed similar immune responses.

Researchers hope to formulate a vaccine and conduct human trials within the next few years.

An article on the genetically modified skin protein to reverse vitiligo is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid