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Exp Dermatol. 2013 Dec;22(12):785-9. doi: 10.1111/exd.12264.

Vitiligo and alopecia areata: apples and oranges?

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Department of Medicine, Division of Dermatology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA.


Vitiligo and alopecia areata are common autoimmune diseases of the skin. Vitiligo is caused by the destruction of melanocytes and results in the appearance of white patches on any part of the body, while alopecia areata is characterized by patchy hair loss primarily on the scalp, but may also involve other areas as well. At first glance, the two diseases appear to be quite different, targeting different cell types and managed using different treatment approaches. However, the immune cell populations and cytokines that drive each disease are similar, they are closely associated within patients and their family members, and vitiligo and alopecia areata have common genetic risk factors, suggesting that they share a similar pathogenesis. Like apples and oranges, vitiligo and alopecia areata have some obvious differences, but similarities abound. Recognizing both similarities and differences will promote research into the pathogenesis of each disease, as well as the development of new treatments.


IFN-γ; T cell; adaptive immunity; alopecia areata; autoantigen; autoimmunity; cytokine; innate immunity; treatment; vitiligo

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