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Skin Cell Transplant May Offer New Hope to Vitiligo Patients
Date:6/23/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Skin cell transplants can restore pigment to the skin of some patients with the disorder known as vitiligo, new research finds.

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which melanocytes, or the cells in skin that produce pigment, are destroyed. The result is the skin loses color, often in patches. Vitiligo affects about one in every 200 people in the United States.

In the study, researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit removed a postage stamp-sized sample of skin from the upper thighs of 23 patients. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 60 and included whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics.

Researchers then isolated melanocytes and keratinocytes, another type of skin cell, into a liquid solution.

Next, researchers used a device called a dermabrader to scrape off the white patches of skin, and sprayed the liquid containing the skin cells onto the skin, allowing it to disperse over the entire white patch. The area was then covered in dressings for about a week.

Gradually, the transplant, including the melanocytes, took hold and began to grow. Over the course of one to six months, color gradually returned to the white patches.

On average, the skin regained about 45 percent of its original color, although some patients saw better results than others.

The technique worked best in people who have what's known as "focal" or "segmental" vitiligo, in which color is lost only on one portion or side of the face or body, while the other is normally pigmented. On average, they had about 68 percent of their natural color return.

The treatment didn't work as well in people with "symmetrical" vitiligo, or pigment loss on both sides of the body or face, said senior study author Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi, a senior staff physician in Henry Ford's department of dermatology.

Researchers believe the immune system is more acti
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