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Vitiligo skin disorder could yield clues in fight against melanoma
Date:9/23/2008

ans. Cathy Kalnicky, 47, has had vitiligo since she was 30. It's on her face, arms, legs and hands. The patches are more noticeable during the summer, when Kalnicky develops a deep tan while watching her three daughters play softball. "I get a lot of questions when I'm out in public," she said. "And some occasional stares."

Kalnicky, a registered nurse at Loyola, has provided skin cell samples for Le Poole's research. "It would be really nice if there was a way to stop vitiligo," Kalnicky said.

Steroid creams return some color to affected skin. But this treatment also thins the skin, and can cause streaks or lines. Bright lights, similar to tanning booths, also can return color, but can cause sunburns and other side effects. Skin grafts transfer skin from unaffected areas to the white patches, but can be painful and expensive, Peterson said.

None of the existing treatments prevent vitiligo from progressing. But the approach Le Poole is studying potentially could stop vitiligo in its tracks.

In people who are susceptible to vitiligo, an injury to the skin, such as sunburn, can trigger pigment cells to generate stress proteins. Immune cells absorb these proteins and, in turn, signal killer T cells to destroy pigment cells.

Le Poole hopes to throw a wrench into this overactive immune response. In collaboration with Assay Designs, Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mi., she is developing blockers that would stop immune cells from absorbing stress hormones and triggering the immune response.

"An active immune response can be bad for vitiligo patients, but good for melanoma patients," Le Poole said. "We hope to be able to adjust the immune system in ways that would benefit both groups of patients."


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Contact: Jim Ritter
jritter@lumc.edu
708-216-2445
Loyola University Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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