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.
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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid