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vitiligo induced gray hair

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Vitiligo induced gray hair

Gray or white hair onset can be due to the development of vitiligo. Vitiligo involves a progressive loss of pigment from the epidermis. Milky-white patches of skin appear resulting in cosmetic disfiguration that is most apparent in dark-skinned individuals. Vitiligo is a disease with autoimmune components where the melanocyte pigment producing cells are disrupted. While this commonly affects the pigment cells in the skin, if the vitiligo develops in a hair bearing area, the melanocytes in the hair follicles can also be adversely affected. The result can be patchy gray or white hair growth.

Interestingly for hair biologists, hair follicles in vitiligo patches can be resistant to loss of pigment. While the melanocyte pigment producing cells in the skin are rapidly destroyed, the melanocytes in the hair follicles can survive for some time before succumbing to the disease. It seems that the hair follicles provide some protection from the effect of vitiligo - at least for a while. This phenomenon has been exploited in some approaches to vitiligo treatment. Once the vitiligo has stabilized, it is possible to transplant pigmented skin and hair follicles to areas of vitiligo and the melanocytes in the transplant spread out into the diseased skin and repigment it. The belief is that the hair follicles provide a reservoir of melanocytes which are able to proliferate and repopulate the skin.

Vitiligo induced gray hair references

  • Agrawal K, Agrawal A. Vitiligo: surgical repigmentation of leukotrichia. Dermatol Surg. 1995 Aug;21(8):711-5.
  • Arrunategui A, Arroyo C, Garcia L, Covelli C, Escobar C, Carrascal E, Falabella R. Melanocyte reservoir in vitiligo. Int J Dermatol. 1994 Jul;33(7):484-7.
  • Halder RM, Grimes PE, Cowan CA, Enterline JA, Chakrabarti SG, Kenney JA Jr. Childhood vitiligo. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1987 May;16(5 Pt 1):948-54.
  • Malakar S, Dhar S. Repigmentation of vitiligo patches by transplantation of hair follicles. Int J Dermatol. 1999 Mar;38(3):237-8.
  • Na GY, Seo SK, Choi SK. Single hair grafting for the treatment of vitiligo. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1998 Apr;38(4):580-4.
  • Bose SK. Is there any treatment of leukotrichia in stable vitiligo? J Dermatol. 1997 Sep;24(9):615-7.
  • Hann SK, Im S, Park YK, Hur W. Repigmentation of leukotrichia by epidermal grafting and systemic psoralen plus UV-A. Arch Dermatol. 1992 Jul;128(7):998-9.
  • Cui J, Shen LY, Wang GC. Role of hair follicles in the repigmentation of vitiligo. J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Sep;97(3):410-6.
  • Boissy RE, Moellmann GE, Lerner AB. Morphology of melanocytes in hair bulbs and eyes of vitiligo mice. Am J Pathol. 1987 May;127(2):380-8.
  • Lison M, Kornbrut B, Feinstein A, Hiss Y, Boichis H, Goodman RM. Progressive spastic paraparesis, vitiligo, premature graying, and distinct facial appearance: a new genetic syndrome in 3 sibs. Am J Med Genet. 1981;9(4):351-7.
  • Lerner AB, Nordlund JJ. Vitiligo: the loss of pigment in skin, hair and eyes. J Dermatol. 1978 Feb;5(1):1-8.
  • Lerner AB. On the etiology of vitiligo and gray hair. Am J Med. 1971 Aug;51(2):141-7.
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