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John Harris sheds light on treatments for vitiligo in WBZ-TV segment

UMass Chan researcher debunks myths about common skin condition with Mallika Marshall

  John Harris, MD, PhD

John Harris, MD, PhD

UMass Medical School vitiligo expert John Harris, MD, PhD, raised awareness and addressed misconceptions about the skin condition vitiligo in an interview with Mallika Marshall, MD, of WBZ-TV. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that causes loss of skin pigmentation, resulting in white patches that can appear all over the face and body. The disorder is far more common than is widely known, affecting one in 100 people of all ethnicities and while not dangerous, can be disfiguring and have profound effects on quality of life for patients.

Dr. Harris, associate professor of medicine, emphasized that contrary to common belief, there is hope and help for those suffering with vitiligo.

“I see the level that this affects them,” Harris said. “That is a huge motivator for what we do.”

Harris told Dr. Marshall that he is often the fifth or sixth dermatologist people have seen because they’ve been told repeatedly that vitiligo is not treatable, but he says that’s false and that patients should know there are options. He described current treatments and those under development in the health segment, which featured a 9-year-old girl who has enjoyed great improvement under his care.

“There are some patients who won’t leave their home because they have it,” said Harris, director of the Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center at UMass Medical School. “They’ll quit their jobs. They’ll stop socializing. They won’t go out during the day. They’ll only go out at night.”

The Harris Lab, which hosted a World Vitiligo Day conference at UMMS on June 29, has identified a key inflammatory pathway that causes vitiligo, and researchers there have begun to test new treatments that shut this pathway off, stopping the spread and reversing the disease through repigmentation of the white spots.

Marshall noted that Harris is launching a clinical trial to test a new treatment that may offer long lasting improvements to people with vitiligo.

View the full story at and learn more about vitiligo research at UMass Medical School at

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