Washington, Feb uary 28: Researchers have developed a genetically modified protein that, in experiments with animals, reverses vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder that causes unsightly white patches on the face, hands and other parts of the body.
Loyola University Chicago has submitted a patent application for the protein, and researchers are seeking regulatory approval and funding for a clinical trial in humans.
Caroline Le Poole, PhD, and colleagues describe the modified protein in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Le Poole is a professor in Loyola’s Oncology Institute and in the departments of Pathology and Microbiology and Immunology.
In Vitiligo, the immune system goes into overdrive and kills pigment cells, which give skin its color.
Previous studies have found that a protein called HSP70i plays a vital role in the autoimmune response that causes vitiligo. (HSP70i stands for inducible heat shock protein 70.)
HSP70i consists of 641 building blocks called amino acids. Le Poole and colleagues genetically modified one of these amino acids to create a mutant HSP70i. This mutant protein supplants normal HSP70i, thereby reversing vitiligo’s autoimmune response.
Researchers Jeffrey A. 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.
Some of the effects seen in mice also were seen in human skin specimens.
Le Poole and colleagues wrote that mutant HSP70i “may offer potent treatment opportunities for vitiligo.”
The study has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. (ANI)