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A Critical Appraisal of Vitiligo Etiologic Theories. Is Melanocyte Loss a Melanocytorrhagy?

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Common generalized vitiligo is an acquired depigmenting disorder characterized by a chronic and progressive loss of melanocytes from the epidermis and follicular reservoir. However, the mechanism of melanocyte disappearance has never been clearly understood, and the intervention of cellular and humoral autoimmune phenomena as primary events remains unproven. In this review, is discussed the data supporting the major theories of vitiligo, namely melanocyte destruction (autoimmune, neural and impaired redox status) and melanocyte inhibition or defective adhesion. Based on recent morphologic findings in vivo supporting a chronic detachment and transepidermal loss of melanocytes in common generalized vitiligo, a new theory is suggested proposing melanocytorrhagy as the primary defect underlying melanocyte loss, integrating most of the possible triggering/precipitating/enhancing effects of other known factors.
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Keywords: Adhesion; Antioxidants; Apoptosis; Dendricity; Melanocyte; Pathophysiology; Vitiligo

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Service de Dermatologie, Hôpital St André, CHU de Bordeaux cédex, France; 2: Inserm E 0217, Université V Segalen Bordeaux, 146 rue Léo Saignat, Bordeaux cédex, France

Publication date: 2003-08-01

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