By Frederick H. Lowe
A team of dermatologists has successfully restored the skin color of men and women suffering from vitiligo, a chronic autoimmune disease that destroys skin pigment, leaving white splotches where there had been color, Yale University News reported in its January 31 issue.
Dr. Brett King, an associate professor of dermatology Yale Medical School, and his colleagues worked with two patients with significant loss of skin color from vitiligo.
Standard treatments that included steroid medication and light treatment failed to restore the patients’ pigmentation.
The medical team then combined tofacitinib, a medication, with a narrow band of ultraviolent B light therapy, according to an article titled “Yale dermatologists successfully restore skin color in vitiligo patients.”
Dr. King and Dr. John Harris, a dermatologist at the University of Massachusetts Worchester, had shown that tofacitinib, or Xeljanz, a drug already approved for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, dampens the body’s immune response. It was first reported in 2015 that Xeljanz successfully treated vitiligo.
Xeljanz keeps the immune system from attacking the skin cells that manufacture melanin pigment (color), and light stimulates pigment-making cells to restore color to the skin. Xeljanz is not approved to treat vitiligo and it costs $2000 a month.
After a few months, one patient saw near total restoration of skin color on her face, neck, chest, forearms and shins, Yale Health News reported. The other patient reported similar success. King said more research is needed in the future to treat vitiligo and other stigmatizing skin conditions. So far the treatment has only been tried on two patients.
Individuals should ask their personal physicians about this treatment.