In vitiligo, skin transplant surgery can be effective for restoring skin pigmentation, according to research. Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin stops producing melanin responsible for skin pigmentation. This causes white patches to appear on the skin.
For the study, researchers followed 23 patients for up to six months after the skin transplant surgery. They found that the treated area regained 43 percent of its natural color. In eight of the participants, pigment was restored 68 percent on average.
The surgery involves taking healthy skin cells from one part of the body and transplanting them to the affected area.
Study senior author Iltefat Hamzavi said, “The results achieved in our study were of obvious significance to our patients. We believe this new treatment option offers hope to patients of color and those with vitiligo on one side of the body or in one area of the body.”
The surgery – known as melanocyte-keratinocyte transplantation (MKTP) – is currently performed in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Treatment options for vitiligo
Common treatments for vitiligo include:
- Creams to control inflammation
- A form of vitamin D
- Medication for the immune system
- Medication and light therapy combined
- Light therapy
- Laser therapy
- Removing remaining color
- Skin grafting
- Blister grafting
- Tattooing to implant pigment
This past year, researchers also developed a unique way to treat vitiligo by transplanting pigment cells to repair the affected area. Dr. Amit Pandya developed this new technique, which is less painful than conventional treatment and involves harvesting cells from a blister and transferring them to the area that is missing pigment.
Dr. Pandya said, “This provides new hope for patients with vitiligo. The unique aspect of our procedure, which no one else in the world is doing, is the formation of blisters as the source of donor cells combined with laser surgery to prepare the grafted areas. The older method of cutting the skin leaves a scar. It doesn’t even hurt. It feels like something is sucking on your skin. Then using heat lamps we’re able to form blisters about the size of a dime.”
Aside from medical intervention, there are important at-home measures to consider as well for protecting your skin from damage. Home treatment for vitiligo involves:
- Protecting your skin from the sun and sources of UV light to prevent sunburn and damage
- Concealing affected skin to boost self-esteem – use a cream or lotion for this and don’t use a tanning bed
- Not getting a tattoo (unless it is used as treatment)