Understanding autoimmunity of vitiligo and alopecia areata

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Dermatology; UMass Metabolic Network

Publication Date


Document Type



Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Dermatology | Immunity | Skin and Connective Tissue Diseases


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Vitiligo and alopecia areata are common, disfiguring skin diseases. Treatment options are limited and include nontargeted approaches, such as corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, narrow band ultraviolet B phototherapy, and other immune-modifying agents. The purpose of this article is to review shared, novel mechanisms between vitiligo and alopecia areata, as well as discuss how they inform the development of future targeted treatments.

RECENT FINDINGS: Vitiligo and alopecia areata are both autoimmune diseases, and striking similarities in pathogenesis have been identified at the level of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Increased reactive oxygen species and high cellular stress level have been suggested as the initiating trigger of the innate immune system in both diseases, and genome-wide association studies have implicated risk alleles that influence both innate and adaptive immunity. Most importantly, mechanistic studies in mouse models of vitiligo and alopecia areata have specifically implicated an interferon (IFN)gamma-driven immune response, including IFNgamma, IFNgamma-induced chemokines, and cytotoxic CD8 T cells as the main drivers of disease pathogenesis. These recent discoveries may reveal an effective strategy to develop new treatments, and several proof-of-concept clinical studies support this hypothesis.

SUMMARY: The identification of IFNgamma-driven immune signaling pathways has enabled discoveries of potential new treatments for vitiligo and alopecia areata, and supports initiation of larger clinical trials.

DOI of Published Version



Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016 Aug;28(4):463-9. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000000375. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Current opinion in pediatrics

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID