First Skin Transplant Therapy for Treatment of Vitiligo

The positive results of the first skin transplant for vitiligo in the United States may mean the beginning of a new treatment option for patients who have yet to find a solution for the problem.

The first skin transplant surgeries for the treatment of vitiligo have been performed in the United States using melanocyte-keratinocyte transplantation (MKTP), making way for what involved researchers say could provide a new treatment option for vitiligo patients who have not had success with other treatments.

The MKTP procedure, performed at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, involved the taking of normally pigmented skin cells from other areas of the body and transplanting them to damaged skin areas. The study at Henry Ford involved 32 patients, 23 of whom where followed for as long as six months after the surgery. These patients who were followed regained 52% of their natural skin color on the treated areas. For eight patients who had a specific type of vitiligo, the treated area of skin regained an average 74% of the natural skin color.

"This surgery offers hope to vitiligo patients," says Iltefat Hamzavi, MD, a senior staff physician in Henry Ford's Department of Dermatology and the study's senior author and principal investigator. "The results achieved in our study were of obvious significance to our patients."

Among the 32 patients at Henry Ford, 40 MKTP procedures were performed (several patients underwent more than one procedure), and the patients included 18 males and 14 females, ranging in age from 18 to 60.

According to Hamzavi, the hospital hopes to offer the procedure as a part of its treatment portfolio this fall. He added that MKTP could be especially helpful for vitiligo patients who have not had success with other treatments.

"Patients of color and those with vitiligo on one side of the body and in one area of the body may benefit most from this procedure," Hamzavi said.