Vitiligo pp 205-223 | Cite as

Animal Models

  • Gisela F. ErfEmail author
  • I. Caroline Le Poole


Vitiligo is a non-communicable, multifactorial pigmentation disorder. Autoimmunity has been identified as a major etiological factor in the postnatal loss of epidermal melanocytes in the skin of vitiligo patients. As with other tissue-specific autoimmune diseases, genetic predisposition to vitiligo development may be manifested in altered responsiveness of tissue cells and immune system components to endogenous and exogenous environmental factors, leading to immunorecognition and immune system-mediated loss of melanocytes. To understand the etiology and pathogenic mechanisms driving disease onset and progression, and to develop effective treatment and prevention strategies for autoimmune vitiligo, appropriate animal models are required. In this context, experimental animal models that naturally develop vitiligo would more closely reflect the complex nature of the disorder in humans than experimental models where the autoimmune disease was induced. Animal models with truly naturally occurring autoimmune disease are rare. However, for autoimmune vitiligo, the Smyth line of chicken was established as a highly relevant, spontaneous model for both basic and translational research, as it displays the entire spectrum of clinical and biological manifestations of autoimmune vitiligo in humans. While there is no natural vitiligo mouse model, induction of vitiligo in mice by generation of melanocyte-specific immune responses proved to be an invaluable approach to dissect cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the autoimmune depigmentation and repigmentation processes. Together, research using the natural and induced animal models will provide the critical knowledge needed to understand, treat, and prevent autoimmune vitiligo.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Agriculture, Center of Excellence for Poultry ScienceUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA
  2. 2.Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Center, Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyNorth Western UniversityChicagoUSA

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