Loyola University of Chicago researchers have developed a genetically modified protein with potential in reversing the effects of vitiligo in mice.
The group of researchers led by Dr. Caroline Le Poole described their findings in an article published in "Science Translational Medicine"
Previous studies performed by this group of researchers have shown that the HSP70i protein plays a vital role in the autoimmune response that causes vitiligo.
HSP70i is a heat shock protein consisting of 641 building blocks called amino acids. Le Poole and her colleagues genetically modified one of these amino-acids to create a mutant HSP70i. The mutant HSP70i protein supplants HSP70i proteins, reversing the autoimmune response in vitiligo.
When administered to mice, HSP70i protein caused them to develop vitiligo. Their fur turned the colouring of salt-and-pepper. When vaccinated with the mutant HSP70i, their fur turned black again. The same effect could be observed on human skin samples.
Concerning the future of this discovery for the treatment of vitiligo, their still is a long way to go: the researchers are seeking regulatory approval and funding for clinical trials in humans.
Mutant HSP70 Reverses Autoimmune Depigmentation in Vitiligo. Sci. Transl. Med. 5, 174ra28 (2013). http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/5/174/174ra28