Melanocyte stress response pathways and their role in the onset of vitiligo

Beneficiary: Prashiela Manga, PhD
, Associate Professor Dermatology and Cell Biology, New York University School of Medicine, USA

Grant: DKK 5,037,192

Vitiligo, an acquired skin disease in which pigment cells, melanocytes, are destroyed, affects 1-2% of people worldwide. The disease deprives the skin of photoprotection leaving it more susceptible to solar damage and compromised cutaneous immunity – and the disease impacts physical and mental health.

Vitiligo is thought to occur in genetically susceptible individuals after being exposed to environmental triggers. Some individuals develop contact vitiligo after direct exposure to certain chemicals. As disease progression in vitiligo is independent from initiating factors, this subset of individuals makes it possible to study vitiligo at large.

The hypothesis in this project is that melanocytes from healthy individuals can withstand exposure to triggers by initiating a stress response regimen that allows the cell to return to homeostasis. These pathways may be disrupted in individuals who develop vitiligo, leaving melanocytes stressed following challenge, causing them to be targeted for removal by the immune system.

In order to investigate this hypothesis, the project will investigate survival pathways in melanocytes cultured from biopsies taken from pigmented skin from individuals who have developed vitiligo.