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Blood biomarkers are able to differentiate vitiligo from other inflammatory skin diseases

Published online: December 18, 2018

Vitiligo, seen in 0.5 to 2 percent of the population, is a skin disorder that affects the pigment of the skin. Inflammatory cells of the immune system damage melanin production to create white patches. The exact causes of vitiligo are not yet known. It is commonly conceptualized as an autoimmune disease- a disorder in which the immune cells mistakenly recognize self-cells as foreign and kill them. Disease course is unpredictable and the repertoire of treatments is limited. In order to develop effective therapeutic targets, studies that precisely profile patients’ blood and skin are needed.

In an original manuscript recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Czarnowicki and colleagues aimed to characterize the blood marker and immune cell profiles of moderate-to-severe vitiligo patients, and compare with healthy controls, and with those with other common inflammatory skin disorders, namely atopic dermatitis (AD) or eczema, psoriasis and alopecia areata (AA).

The researchers found that vitiligo is characterized by activation of multiple immune cells in blood (known as Th1, Th2, Th9, Th17 and Th22 cells), in parallel with suppression of cells that regulate immune responses.

A set of unique biomarkers in the blood of vitiligo patients distinguished them from the other disease groups. The authors conclude that future clinical studies that involve biologic medications that target specific molecules of the immune system will be able to shed light on the relative contribution of each of these immune components to the pathogenesis of vitiligo.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.