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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid