Erasing the memory of T cells may reverse the symptoms of vitiligo. This follows the results of a study on the treatment of vitiligo conducted by a research team from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts recently published in the journal “Science Translational Medicine”.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition which occurs when the T cells attack and destroy the skin cells responsible for pigmentation, resulting in the appearance of white patches.

In some cases, depigmentation reoccurs after repigmentation of these patches has been achieved with the different therapeutic alternatives used to treat vitiligo. This was precisely what led researchers from Massachusetts to analyse the activity of a type of T cells called resident memory T cells (or TRM), which they thought were responsible for the recurrence of depigmentation.

Jillian Richmond and her team analysed the lesions which vitiligo patients presented and found that they contained TRM that expressed components of an interleukin-15 (IL-15) receptor, an immune signalling molecule.

In their research, they administered an antibody that targets the IL-15 receptor to mice with established vitiligo for two weeks and observed that the treatment restored their pigmentation for the next two months.

This research could open up a new line in the treatment of vitiligo, a condition which affects between 1 and 2% of the world’s population.
The therapeutic alternatives currently include combinations of oral and topical photosensitizers, and pigmentation regulators with phototherapy.

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