A group of researchers in Chicago's Loyola University Stritch school of medicine claim to have found a cure for Vitiligo - an auto immune disorder that causes white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. (You can read a summary of their scientific paper here - PDF)
This is a huge medical breakthrough, as the condition up until now has been treatable, but not curable.
The disorder, which the late Michael Jackson famously suffered from, occurs when an individual's immune system goes into overdrive and destroys cells that make pigment (colour) in the skin. It is particularly prevalent in the Indian subcontinent.
The Times of India quoted a dermatologist Dr Satish Bhatia as saying, "In India, in particular, it ranges from 7-18 per cent of the population. In some cases there is a genetic link as high as 40 per cent."
According to the Mumbai Mirror, the group of researchers have created a 'mutant' version of the HSP70i protein, which previous studies have already found to be effective against Vitiligo. The new protein reportedly reverses the auto immune response that causes the destruction of pigmentation cells.
"Resarchers Jeffrey Mosenson and Andrew Zloza gave mutant HSP70i to mice that developed vitiligo, and the results were striking. Mouse fur - affected by vitiligo - had the coloring of a salt-and-pepper beard. But when the mice were vaccinated with mutant HSP70i, the fur turned black. “The mice look normal,” Le Poole said.
Vitiligo is not life threatening or contagious, but sufferers are often at the receiving end of a lot of social stigma.
"Although vitiligo is a cosmetic skin problem, those affected may slip into depression, even contemplate suicide. People must be educated about vitiligo not being a disease but a skin condition that can be treated. It does not spread through contact," senior skin specialist Vidyadhar Sardesai told the Times of India.''
Updated Date: Feb 27, 2013 10:48 AM