Dr. Brett King/Yale
By Alexandra Sifferlin
June 27, 2015
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Scientists have discovered an existing drug may be able to restore pigment into the skin of people with vitiligo.

Vitiligo is a disorder that causes the skin to lose its pigment, and few treatments are consistently effective. The late singer Michael Jackson is a well-known person who had the disorder.

In the study, which was recently published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, researchers gave a 53-year-old patient with vitiligo who had white spots covering her face, hands and body a drug called tofacitinib citrate, which is currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

After just two months, pigment had partially returned to the woman’s face, arms and hands, and after five months white spots on her face were almost completely gone. She had a few spots that remained on other parts of her body.

The findings are encouraging, especially considering she experienced no adverse side effects while taking the drug. Since the study was only conducted with one woman, more research will need to be done to confirm efficacy and safety.

“While it’s one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this patient based on our current understanding of the disease and how the drug works,” said study author Dr. Brett King, assistant professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine in a statement. “It’s a first, and it could revolutionize treatment of an awful disease.”

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