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Skin Transplant Surgery Could Treat Vitiligo


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

De-pigmentation of the skin caused in vitiligo can be successfully treated by skin transplant surgery, established researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, U.S.

Vitiligo is a chronic disorder that changes a color of the skin, causing white patches as a result of triggering losses of the body's melanin pigment. Light therapy and topical skin drugs are common treatments for the condition, however these treatments do not always work.

Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit carried out the study involving 32 patients with vitiligo disease, 18 men and 14 women, with the ages between 18 and 60 years. All these patients underwent skin transplant surgery, also known as melanocyte-keratinocyte transplantation (MKTP), during which melanocyte cells were taken from one healthy area of the patient's skin and then transferred to damaged parts of the skin. The melanocyte cells were divided in order to build a skin cell mixture, which was then applied to the treatment area and covered with a specially developed dressing. Treated areas included hands, arms, legs, feet, face and stomach.

The skin transplant surgery that was performed under local anesthesia, lasted for a minimum of half an hour and a maximum of two hours, depending on the individual condition of each vitiligo patient. Patients were discharged from the hospital and were able to go home the next day. After the surgery, all of them were followed for a period of 6 months, so the experts were able to determine its effect on treated areas.

After evaluating the results, researchers revealed that the treated area regained on average 52 per cent of its natural skin color. Even more improvement was seen in 8 patients who were suffering from a specific type of vitiligo disorder. Their skin after melanocyte-keratinocyte transplantation surgery regained 74 per cent of its natural skin color.

Principal author of the study and a senior staff physician in Henry Ford's Department of Dermatology, Dr. Iltefat Hazavi, M.D., said that this skin transplant surgery offers big hope to vitiligo patients and is of obvious significance to them. Dr. Hamzavi also said that while the initial results are preliminary and the new treatment is still being studied, the scientists at Henry Ford hope to offer the surgery as part of its treatment portfolio the upcoming fall. He says for some patients the surgery is more effective than standard treatments such as light therapy and topical drugs.

The study findings were presented on March 9, 2010 at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting in Miami.

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