After participating in a study on vitiligo that was recently published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Michael Steppie, M.D., a clinical professor of Dermatology at Florida State University College of Medicine and the President and Medical Director of Associates in Dermatology, remarked, “The promise of a treatment that cures vitiligo, rather than just dealing with the symptoms alone, is particularly exciting.”
Although vitiligo can start at any age and affects all races and both sexes equally, the white patches most often appear between twenty to thirty years of age. There is a loss of pigment in the person’s skin related to the destruction of melanocytes, which are the skin’s pigment-forming cells. Vitiligo can appear in patients of any race but is more noticeable in darker-skinned individuals. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH), the cause of vitiligo is not known but it affects about 0.5 to 1 percent of the world’s population. Vitiligo can run in families and the children of parents with the vitiligo are more likely to develop the disorder.
What causes the patches of lighter skin appear is still somewhat a mystery, which is precisely why Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., the scientific director of Analytical Genomics and Bioinformatics at Sanford Burnham Prebys, and Dr. Steppie were eager to examine new evidence. Although medical researchers have long believed the skin disorder to be associated with autoimmune disease, Perera and Steppie (along with their colleagues) may have found another culprit. Since a microRNA called miR-211 is not found vitiligo cells, it is believed the messenger RNAs may prevent gene expression by turning off several genes linked to mitochondria creation.
Although vitiligo is not life threatening, it can be life-altering causing some people to develop low self-esteem. The chronic skin disorder is usually first seen on sun-exposed areas of the face, lips, hands and feet but can progress to other body parts including the genitalia, mouth, lips, eyeball or facial hair. Although no cure exists for vitiligo, dermatologic treatments may help to slow or stop the discoloring process. Rarely does the skin get its color back but some patients have had limited color return following his or her treatment regimen. That’s why identifying miR-211 as a possible cause means this microRNA could be a promising therapeutic target.
Both Steppie and Perera are working to launch large-scale studies so the group’s recent findings can be validated and new progress made toward identifying a cure or preventing the condition in the first place.
TO DOWNLOAD A PDF OF ABSTRACT: http://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(17)31491-4/pdf