Eumelanin and phaeomelanin contents of depigmented and repigmented skin in vitiligo patients

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There are two chemically distinct types of melanin: the red–yellow phaeomelanin and the brown–black eumelanin. Both types of melanin have been detected in human hair, epidermis and cultured melanocytes.


In a preliminary study, to quantify levels of both eumelanin and phaeomelanin in depigmented as well as repigmented patches of vitiligo following psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy.


We enrolled five patients with vitiligo for this study. We took biopsies from depigmented as well as repigmented lesions after PUVA therapy. The eumelanin and phaeomelanin contents of the skin biopsies were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography.


The mean concentrations in depigmented lesions were 229.4 ng per piece for phaeomelanin and 572 ng per piece for eumelanin (mean phaeomelanin/eumelanin ratio 0.36). In repigmented lesions, the mean concentration of phaeomelanin was 74.8 ng per piece and that of eumelanin was 1657.6 ng per piece (mean phaeomelanin/eumelanin ratio 0.049).


Depigmented lesions showed both types of melanin, and contained a substantial amount of phaeomelanin, whereas repigmented lesions after PUVA showed predominantly eumelanin. We detected melanin in depigmented lesions of vitiligo of 5 years duration, suggesting that some residual melanocytes are still active in depigmented lesions.

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