(NaturalNews) An extract derived from black pepper may be able to help reverse the effects of the skin pigmentation disease known as vitiligo, according to research conducted by scientists from Kings College London and published in the Ridge Journal of Dermatology.
Vitiligo is a disease in which sections of the skin lose their pigmentation and turn white, often leading to a blotchy, mottled look. Because melanin, the chemical that gives skin its pigmentation, also protects against the ultraviolet radiation causes skin cancer, people with vitiligo may be at increased risk for that disease.
The current study focused on piperine, the chemical that gives black pepper its spiciness. Researchers applied piperine and its synthetic derivatives to the skin of mice, and found that doing so caused the animals' skin to turn an even light brown after only six weeks.
When combined with ultraviolet radiation treatment, piperine caused the mice's skin to become darker faster. The effect was also more long-lasting
The researchers noted the advantages of piperine over the current methods used to treat vitiligo. While ultraviolet radiation alone does cause repigmentation of the skin, the color produced is patchy, and the use of frequent radiation treatments increases a patient's risk of skin cancer. Corticosteroid treatments, on the other hand, only work in 25 percent of patients.
"Vitiligo is a highly visible disease that can greatly affect patients psychologically and emotionally," said Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists. "Any breakthrough in treatments of this disease is most welcome. These findings could potentially lead to the development of treatments that not only provide improved results, but could also reduce the need for ultraviolet radiation in vitiligo treatment, in turn lowering the risk of skin cancer."
Approximately one in 100 people in the United States suffer from vitiligo, which is believed to result from a combination of autoimmune, environmental and genetic factors. Among most well-known sufferers is pop musician Michael Jackson.
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