Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition that is actually much more common than you might think. It affects roughly 1% of the population, and is characterised by partial loss of pigmentation in the skin, which causes areas to lose colour and appear white.
For some people, specifically those with lighter skin, the condition may not be particularly noticeable, but for those with darker complexions, it is more of a contrast.
Although it's not that rare, there are virtually no people in the public eye with vitiligo. Model Winnie Harlow is the most well known, who regularly speaks out about how she is not defined by the condition, and instead succeeds at 'showing people that their differences don’t make them WHO they are'. Winnie's open and honest take is a reminder that there is not one standard of beauty, and every body is beautiful.
Some people with vitiligo, however, may still want to seek treatment - something that has been fairly non-existent until the results of this new study. Conducted by The Tufts Medical Center in Boston, 157 patients were randomly given a daily application of either the drug ruxolitinib, or a placebo, and monitored for two years.
Ruxolitinib is used to treat a group of blood disorders, but Dr Rosmarin explains how it can help combat vitiligo. "Topical ruxolitinib has the potential to change the way vitiligo is treated. Not only is it effective at repigmenting the skin, but it has an excellent safety profile," he explains.
"We also are optimistic that many vitiligo patients may see an even better response with continuous ruxolitinib usage over an extended period of time, combined with phototherapy and sunlight exposure. Our hope is that this treatment ultimately will be a game-changer for the millions of people worldwide affected by vitiligo."
The results of the study were particularly impressive, with half of the patients using the highest dose of ruxolitinib seeing "a statistically significant improvement of near 50 percent in their facial vitiligo, compared to three percent who saw this level of improvement in the placebo group."
As with many of the treatments, there are some side effects, which include mild acne, redness and irritation - and of course, 157 patients isn't a huge sample size for testing of this nature.
Although the findings are promising, there is still a long way to go before topical ruxolitinib is available to the general public, as it will have to pass various FDA approvals first.