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Novel Vitiligo Treatment Under Investigation by FDA

FDA Examins Future Vitiligo Treatment

Patients with the skin disease, vitiligo, develop white patches on the skin due to the immune system’s attack on the body’s melanocytes.  Melanocytes are the cells that pigment our skin, but when the body’s immune system perceives those cells as harmful invaders like bacteria or a virus, the immune system obliterates melanocytes in certain areas of the body.  Despite clinical research concerning vitiligo, medical scientists are not completely sure of how vitiligo initiates, decides when to act, or how to cure it.  Australian scientists have been studying melanin and how to stimulate its production in the human body.  The pharmaceutical company, Clinuvel, is developing a product called Scenesse to treat patient’s lesions.  The product is a small pellet (about the size of a rice grain) that is implanted in the skin to create a tan.  This is a similar methodology currently used in vitiligo treatment where narrow band UVB rays are used to tan white patches of skin.  Once the pellet is implanted it stimulates melanin production, produces a tan, and also protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation.  This product is undergoing testing in Australia and abroad, so it is not available in international markets or the US yet.  However, many dermatology experts are interested in the treatment modality for their patients – especially the product can also protect vitiligo patients from harmful UVA/UVB radiation since these patients can be more sensitive to sun exposure.  Before the product begins Phase II or III clinical trials with the US FDA, it must prove that it is safe in both animal and human models.  The FDA has approved initial trials for Scenesse for treating vitiligo.  If results are good and the product gets clearance for vitiligo treatment, it is possible that the product may be used for more than just treating vitiligo.  Like Botox (which was originally used as a muscle relaxer) there is speculation this product may be used as an alternative to tanning beds, sunbathing, and spray tanning.  West Houston Dermatology vitiligo specialist, Stephen Mahoney, M.D., understands the challenges faced by vitiligo patients, and he is always educating himself and his staff on possible future treatments that prove both safe and effective.  Stay tuned!