Dr. Vivekananda Bhat MBBS, MS., Consultant Cosmetic Surgeon. Having 14 years of Experience in Cosmetic Surgery
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Melanocyte Transplant Surgery

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo simply put is discoloration of skin in patches resulting from depigmentation. The patches are most commonly seen on face, lips, insides of the mouth, extremities and the back.
Although relatively harmless, Vitiligo is more of a social disease as it affects the personal appearance of the patients and deteriorates their social life owing to the perceived taboo that it might be a communicable skin disease.

Treatment For Vitiligo:

Melanocyte Transplantation Surgery

Occurrence of Vitiligo 

Vitiligo affects around 1% of the world population and can be seen in all races. However it looks more prominent in people with darker skin tone as the white patches are more prominently visible.
The reason for concern however is that it occurs more in people under the age group of 20, and may also be related to other Auto immune disorders later in life like diabetes, thyroid disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus and Alopecia Areata etc.

Vitiligo Diagnosis

On noticing white patches on the body or face, a medical diagnosis can help in determining the cause as Vitiligo and present treatment options available for the patient. It is seen that white patches occur more on parts exposed to the sun.  The severity and rate of pigment loss varies from person to person and cannot be predicted.

What Causes Vitiligo

Although the underlying reason causing Vitiligo is not fully known, the white patches occur due to the loss or destruction of pigment producing cells in the skin called Melanocytes. The proposed theories for its causes may be related to a systemic autoimmune disorder or abnormal functioning of nerve cells resulting in damage to pigment cells or event the pigment cells destroying themselves.

Surgical techniques for treating Vitiligo

The goal of Vitiligo surgery is to restore complete tone and pigment of the skin that matches the surrounding skin.  But there are certain factors that must be confirmed before opting for surgical procedures:

The factors are:

  • Patient’s age
  • Vitiligo Stability
  • Size and location of the patch
  • Surgical procedure and grafting site

Different types of Vitiligo Surgery 

All surgical methods aim to transfer melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) from normal skin to the skin affected with white patches.

Types of Melanocyte transplant treatment

The two main categories of Surgical treatment for vitiligo are Grafting of melanocyte-rich tissue (tissue grafting) and Grafting of melanocyte cells (cellular grafting).

What are Melanocytes?

Melanocytes are skin cells which produce melanin. A complete absence of skin colour usually means that melanocytes have been completely destroyed.

The Grafting of melanocyte-rich tissue is performed by these three techniques

– Miniature punch grafting (MPG)
– Suction blister grafting
– Split thickness skin grafting

The grafting of melanocyte cells is performed by these techniques 

– Autologous non-cultured epidermal cell suspensions
– Cultured melanocyte suspensions

The Melanocyte Transplants procedure involves melanocytes and keratinocytes in the top layer of dermal tissue removed surgically under local anesthesia and grown in a culture for one day. The grown tissue is then placed on the vitiligo patches
The therapy shows best results for stable vitiligo with large white patches as the pigment cells restore the skin color and tone.

Benefits of Melanocyte Transplant Surgery

  • The Melanocyte transplant surgery has a success rate of 95% in patients and is considered one of the best options for Vitiligo surgical treatment.
  • It’s ideal for difficult areas like bony surfaces, areola, genital areas and knuckles.
  • Yields very good cosmetic results.
  • It has very minimal or no side effects.