Lesional CD8+ T-Cell Number Predicts Surgical Outcomes of Melanocyte-Keratinocyte Transplantation Surgery for Vitiligo

J Invest Dermatol. 2023 Nov;143(11):2275-2282.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2023.03.1689. Epub 2023 Jul 20.


The melanocyte-keratinocyte transplantation procedure (MKTP) treats stable and recalcitrant vitiligo. Despite careful selection of candidates based on clinical stability, the success of the procedure is unpredictable. The aim of our study was to define the immunological profile of stable vitiligo lesions undergoing MKTP and correlate them with clinical outcomes. We included 20 MKTP candidates with vitiligo and a patient with piebaldism as a control. Prior to MKTP, T-cell subsets and chemokines in the recipient skin were measured by flow cytometry and ELISA. During MKTP, melanocytes in the donor skin were quantified by flow cytometry. After MKTP, patients were followed for 12 months and repigmentation was assessed clinically and by ImageJ analysis of clinical photographs. Baseline immunologic biomarkers, duration of clinical stability, and transplanted melanocyte number were correlated to postsurgical repigmentation scores. CD8+ T cells were elevated in 43% of the clinically stable vitiligo lesions. CD8+ T-cell number negatively correlated with postsurgical repigmentation scores (r = -0.635, P = 0.002). Duration of clinical stability, skin chemokines, and transplanted melanocyte number did not influence postsurgical repigmentation. This study demonstrates that CD8+ T-cell number correlates negatively with success of postsurgical repigmentation and can be a biomarker to identify ideal surgical candidates.