According to a July 16, 2015 press release, a University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center dermatologist has improved a technique to transplant pigment cells that can repair the affected area of skin discoloration from vitiligo. Dr. Amit Pandya, Professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern, refined and enhanced this technique, which uses a less painful process, rather than cutting into the skin, to obtain the cells needed for the transplant. The cells are harvested from a painless blister raised on the skin, then transferred to the area of involvement to replace the missing pigment cells and restore the individual’s natural skin color. UT Southwestern is the only center in the United States to use this technique and one of only two centers to perform this type of cell transplant surgery, called non-cultured epidermal suspension (NCES) grafting, cellular grafting, or melanocyte keratinocyte transplant procedure (MKTP). “This provides new hope for patients with vitiligo,” said Dr. Pandya, who holds the Dr. J.B. Shelmire Professorship in Dermatology. “The unique aspect of our procedure, which no one else in the world is doing, is the formation of blisters as the source of donor cells combined with laser surgery to prepare the grafted areas. The older method of cutting the skin leaves a scar.” Dr. Pandya, the only full-time pigmentary disorders specialist in Texas, has spent more than a decade treating vitiligo patients in the Pigmentation Disorders Clinic at UT Southwestern. Vitiligo affects about 2 million people in the United States. Vitiligo occurs when the body is triggered to look at melanocytes, cells which give color to the skin, as foreign or abnormal. With vitiligo, the body’s own immune system starts attacking those cells, which is why it’s considered an autoimmune disease.
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