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J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2009 Aug;23(8):934-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2009.03233.x. Epub 2009 May 3.

The hair follicle melanocytes in vitiligo in relation to disease duration.

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Dermatology Department, Al-Minya University, Al-Minya, Egypt.



Vitiligo is an acquired pigmentary disorder of skin and hair. Active melanocytes in hair follicles can be detected by DOPA and immunohistochemical staining, while amelanotic melanocytes can only be detected by the latter. None of the studies on hair melanocytes in vitiligo discussed the effect of disease duration on these melanocytes. Here, we study the presence of melanotic and amelanotic melanocytes in vitiligo hair follicles and statistically correlating their presence with the disease duration.


This study was conducted on 30 patients with vitiligo and 10 normal volunteers. Three biopsies were taken from each patient: two from black and white hairs from vitiliginous areas and the third from apparently normal skin of the same patients. Sections were stained by DOPA reaction and NKI/beteb then examined for the presence of melanocytes. The presence of melanocytes and the disease duration were correlated statistically using the t-test.


Active melanocytes were detected in black hairs of 6.7% of vitiligo patients and in 100% of apparently normal skin of the same patients and controls. On examining black hairs of the 28 vitiligo patients with negative DOPA reaction, 19 of them (67.9%) showed positive NKI/beteb stain. Disease duration was inversely correlated with the melanocytes' presence within hair follicles. Melanocytes were absent from 100% of white hairs.


The melanotic melanocytes were the first target of the disease process followed by the amelanotic melanocytes. Since the disappearance of the latter was inversely correlated with the disease duration, early treatment in vitiligo is advised.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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