The pigment melanin determines
the color of our skin, hair and eyes. Loss of melanin in the skin and hair
causes vitiligo (white patches on the skin) and graying of hair.
Our hair goes gray due to massive
oxidative stress caused by accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair
follicle. This causes our hair to bleach itself from the inside out. Karin
Schallreuter and colleagues, from the Institute for Pigmentary Disorders, E.M.
Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany; and Centre of Skin Sciences, School of
Life Sciences, University of Bradford, U.K, developed a photo-activated
compound (PC-KUS) that could reverse this build up of hydrogen peroxide. This
proprietary treatment works for vitiligo as well.
'To date, it is beyond any doubt
that the sudden loss of the inherited skin and localized hair color can affect
those individuals in many fundamental ways,' said Schallreuter, the lead
researcher of the study. 'The improvement of quality of life after total and
even partial successful repigmentation has been documented.'
This study analyzed the effects
of the medication on an international group of 2,411 patients with vitiligo,
where 2.4 percent were diagnosed with strictly segmental vitiligo (SSV), and
3.2 percent were diagnosed with mixed vitiligo (SSV plus non-segmental vitiligo
Non-segmental vitiligo is the
most common type of vitiligo in which the patches often become visible equally
on both sides of the body, with some kind of symmetry. These symmetrical
patches generally appear on skin that is exposed daily to the sun.
Segmental vitiligo, on the other
hand, is rare, non-symmetrical, and usually tends to affect dorsal roots of the
spine. It is more stable, less erratic, and responds well to topical
The researchers of this study
found that patients who have SSV within a certain nerve distribution involving
skin and eyelashes show the same oxidative stress as observed in the NSV, which
is associated with decreased antioxidant
of enzymes like catalase and other antioxidants.
The researchers treated the patients with PC-KUS
(a modified pseudocatalase
) and found that the treatment led to successful
re-pigmentation in their skin and eyelashes, that is, the original color was
'For generations, numerous
remedies have been concocted to hide gray hair, but now, for the first time, an
actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed. While
this is exciting news, what's even more exciting is that this also works for
vitiligo. This condition, while technically cosmetic, can have serious
socio-emotional effects of people. Developing an effective treatment for this condition
has the potential to radically improve many people's lives,' said Gerald
Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal
This study is a follow up on a
2009 study published in the journal FASEB which described the cause of
age-related graying of hair. According to the study findings, low levels of
enzyme that breaks up hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen (catalase) cause
the build up of hydrogen peroxide. These hair follicles also have low levels of
enzymes MSR A and B, which are used to repair the damage. Further complicating
matters, the high levels of hydrogen peroxide and low levels of these enzymes,
disrupt the formation of an enzyme tyrosinase (which produces melanin in hair
follicles), thus causing graying of hair.