Harnessing the Power of Regenerative Therapy for Vitiligo and Alopecia Areata

J Invest Dermatol. 2020 Jan;140(1):29-37. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2019.03.1142. Epub 2019 Jun 10.


Vitiligo and alopecia areata (AA) are common autoimmune conditions characterized by white spots on the skin (vitiligo) and bald spots on the scalp (AA), which significantly impact patients' lives by damaging their appearance and function. Melanocytes are the target of immune destruction in vitiligo and are hypothesized to be the site of immune attack in AA. This inflammatory process can be partially reversed by immunosuppressive drugs. Both conditions demonstrate regenerative components that are just now being identified. In this review, we focus on the regenerative medicine aspects of vitiligo and AA, using experimental data from human, mouse, and in vitro models, summarizing the key pathways involved in repopulation of the epidermis with melanocytes in vitiligo and in regrowth of hair follicles in AA. We also discuss treatments that may activate these pathways. Of the regenerative treatments, JAK inhibitors and bimatoprost stimulate repopulation of depleted cells in both diseases, intralesional injections of autologous concentrated platelet-rich plasma and minoxidil showed some benefit in AA, and phototherapy with narrowband UVB was shown to be effective especially in vitiligo. Finally, we discuss future treatments based on the mobilization of stem cells to regenerate anagen hair follicles in AA and intraepidermal melanocytes in vitiligo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia Areata / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Bimatoprost / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Self Renewal
  • Guided Tissue Regeneration / methods*
  • Hair Follicle / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Janus Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Melanocytes / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Phototherapy
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Vitiligo / therapy*


  • Janus Kinase Inhibitors
  • Bimatoprost