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Genetic and Epidermis Research

The research group of Professor Richard Spritz in the University of Colorado USA has undertaken many important studies of the genetic basis of vitiligo over the last few years. In the most recent paper (Nature Genetics 2012; 44: 676-80) they summarise that most genes that indicate a susceptibility to vitiligo are involved with proteins or parts of the pigment cell that are important for the functioning of the immune system.

From Dalian China, comes some interesting research on the epidermis (the uppermost layer of the skin, where the pigment cells are situated) in vitiligo. Dr Lui and colleagues (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2010; 23: 193-200) noted that studies have demonstrated that alterations in skin biophysical properties in vitiligo have not yet been well defined. In their study, stratum corneum (SC) hydration, the skin surface acidity and epidermal permeability barrier function in vitiligo were evaluated. They found that in addition to SC hydration, both melanin and erythema index were significantly lower in vitiligo skin than in non-lesional sites, while no difference in skin surface acidity between vitiligo-involved and uninvolved areas was observed. In addition, the SC integrity in the involved areas was similar to that in the uninvolved areas. However, barrier recovery in vitiligo-involved sites was significantly delayed in comparison with uninvolved sites.