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Exp Dermatol. 2006 Jul;15(7):509-14.

Retinoic acid synergistically enhances the melanocytotoxic and depigmenting effects of monobenzylether of hydroquinone in black guinea pig skin.

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Endocrinology and Metabolism Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.


Monobenzylether of hydroquinone (MBEH) has long been utilized for the depigmentation therapy of patients with extensive vitiligo. In this approach, the normally pigmented areas surrounding vitiligo lesions are depigmented to achieve a uniform skin tone. One of the important disadvantages of MBEH therapy, however, is the resistance of a considerable number of vitiligo patients against the depigmenting effect of this agent. We have previously proposed that the glutathione-dependent cytoprotection of melanocytes can be impaired through the inhibition of the enzyme glutathione S-transferase by retinoic acid (RA). The combination of RA with melanocytotoxic agents could thus lead to increased susceptibility of melanocytes to such compounds. In this study we have shown, for the first time, that the melanocytotoxic and depigmenting effects of MBEH are synergistically enhanced when it is combined with RA. The treatment of black guinea pig skin with RA (0.025%) alone induced no significant changes in the number of epidermal melanocytes and no skin depigmentation. On the other hand, MBEH (10%) produced mild to moderate skin depigmentation and reduced the average number of melanocytes from 76 (+/-5)/field (magnification: x 40) in control sites, to 42 (+/-6)/field in the depigmented skin. The RA (0.025%)-MBEH (10%) combination, however, produced a complete degree of depigmentation in the majority of treated sites after 10 days of application and reduced the average number of melanocytes to only 6 (+/-6)/field. RA-MBEH combination serves as a very potent skin depigmenting formula and now awaits future assessments of its potential use for the treatment of extensive vitiligo.

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