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Interesting Article on the Genetic Basis of Alopecia Areata

Discussion in 'Women's Alopecia Areata' started by Joann, Feb 18, 2011.

  1. Joann

    Joann Moderator

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    Hi Girls,

    I found this article recently on the Science Daily website. It's quite interesting and positive for those who have Alopecia Areata hairloss:


    According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere. It affects approximately two percent of the population overall. While it affects both men and women equally, it is diagnosed more often in women, since they are more likely to seek treatment.

    Among the eight genes, one stands out for its potential role in the onset of alopecia areata. The gene, called ULBP3, is known to act as a homing beacon for cytotoxic cells that can invade and quickly destroy an organ. Normally, ULBP3 is not present in hair follicles, but the ULBP3 proteins are abundant in hair follicles affected by alopecia areata. The proteins attract cells marked by a killer cell receptor, known as NKG2D. In addition to ULBP3, two other genes are expressed in the hair follicle, while the five remaining genes are involved in the immune response.

    "Finding the initial genes underlying alopecia areata is a big step forward, but the nature of the genes is even more exciting," said Angela M. Christiano, Ph.D., professor of dermatology and genetics & development at Columbia University Medical Center, and lead author of the study. "There seems to be a shared mechanism among organs that express NKG2D danger signals as part of the initiating process. And since drugs are already in development that target these pathways -- because they are being tested to treat rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and other diseases where the NKG2D receptor is involved -- we may soon be able to test these drugs in clinical trials for alopecia areata. Finally, we have the possibility of developing drugs that specifically target the mechanism behind the disease."

    For years, alopecia areata was thought to be related to psoriasis because both are inflammatory diseases where T cells attack the skin. For this reason, psoriasis drugs have been tested in clinical trials for alopecia areata, but without much success. In this research, Dr. Christiano and her team found few genes in common to both diseases. Rather, they showed that alopecia areata genes have more in common with those implicated in rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes.

    "This research is very exciting as alopecia areata affects a huge number of people worldwide, and there are very few treatments for it -- resulting in an enormous unmet medical need," said Vicki Kalabokes, president and CEO of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, which funded Dr. Christiano's early pilot studies on the genetic basis of alopecia areata. "Hair loss is life-altering -- sufferers, especially children, experience social stigma. It affects their quality of life and can lead to long-term psychosocial impact."

    A huge source of frustration for patients is not being able to predict the progression of disease, which is highly unpredictable. Alopecia areata usually starts with one or more small, round patches on the scalp and may progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis). Hair may grow back in or fall out again at any time, and the disease course is different for each person. Treatments often involve steroid injections into the scalp or other affected site of hair loss, topical foams, irritant factors, and rarely, systemic steroids.

    To address this problem of not being able to predict disease progression, Dr. Christiano and her team looked for a correlation between how many genes (each gene comes in two pairs) people with different severities of alopecia areata carried, and found that people who carried 13-14 genes had disease that did not progress, while those with 16 or more most often progressed to alopecia universalis (total baldness).

    With this new data, she is developing a genetic test that, with reasonable certainty, can predict the severity of disease.

    This research was conducted using more than 1,000 samples from the National Alopecia Areata Registry, a patient registry for alopecia areata funded by the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Columbia University Medical Center is one of five collection sites nationwide.

    "The advantage of this large sample size is that we can be sure that this group of genes was identified with a high statistical significance and did not happen by chance," said Dr. Christiano. "The next step is to replicate this study in future.


    :) Joann
     
  2. AAat39?

    AAat39? Guest

    Thanks for posting Joann!
     
  3. Joann

    Joann Moderator

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    You're welcome Alopecia Areata :)
     
  4. haygirl326

    haygirl326 Guest

    Very interesting!!! Thank you!!
     
  5. Joann

    Joann Moderator

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    You're welcome Tracy. :)
     
  6. sam

    sam Guest

    I went to Columbia while in NYC to donate samples and to have the photos taken for this study. From what I understand, they are looking for 10,000 participants....those who have Alopecia Areata, family members who do not have Alopecia Areata, and controls (those who don't have and are not related to anyone with Alopecia Areata). Not sure if the study involves Alopecia Universalis and AT. If you can't travel to one of the the sites, it was my understanding that you may be able to have your physician draw the samples and send them out (but I'm not sure if there are any costs involved with the donor). It's worth looking into because if nothing else, it may help you feel little bit better knowing that you might be able to contribute in this way. I know I felt good about participating.

    Here's the link if you want to find out more:

    http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer?pag ... h_registry

    BTW: I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata in August of 2010. It has since progressed with an Alopecia Ophiasis pattern. HOWEVER...I have been getting Kenalog injections (5mg/2cc) every six weeks since. I'm told my case is advanced in that I'm only responding at the injection sites. But I AM responding. We have to keep a close watch on things as this is a steroid. While I continue to lose original growth, I am not losing regrowth, and there's quite a bit of that. So as long as I don't relapse, I can expect to be out of the wig in a couple of years. Good days/bad days until then, but mostly good, for which I am grateful.
     
  7. leslielam

    leslielam Guest

    i just re-joined on this forum.

    Are your Kenalog injections - steroid injections? I'm not sure what the Kenalog stands for!
     
  8. leslielam

    leslielam Guest

    Just checking back into forum and saw this post on the genetic basis of Alopecia Areata.
    Very interesting and wonder if that's why my dermatologist put me on sulfazsalazine because it's used for rheumatoid arthritis.
     
  9. sam

    sam Guest

    Sorry for my delayed response...I had a lot of trouble logging in.

    Yes, Kenalog is a steroid injection. It's a treatment, not a cure. It doesn't eliminate the chance of relapse, which I have unfortunately found out since my last post.

    I see a dermatologist for these injections every 6 weeks. I receive 5mg kenalog/2cc saline (I think it's saline) each visit. But because of my relapse, I'll be seeing another dermatologist in November to determine whether another or supplemental treatments might be able to help.
     
  10. wow, that's very very interesting. Thanks Joann! there may be hope for us yet!
     
  11. leslielam

    leslielam Guest

    Thank you so much for posting this news! Wow, its good to know that there is hope! I started out with alopecia areata 5 yrs ago and after losing and re-growing my hair 4 different times, my recent hair loss has turned into 98% universalis - its very hard to deal with.
    i also lost eyebrows and almost all of my eyelashes but a few. I just hate feeling like my hair will not come back since i am losing it everywhere now.
    I still want to believe it could grow back but it's hard to be positive. it's so weird too because i have small patches of white fuzz growing on my scalp but still large smooth areas.
    thanks again for posting this news.
     

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