Researchers from the department of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine announced today that they successfully regrew a full head of hair in a patient suffering from alopecia universalis using a drug normally reserved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Unlike androgenic alopecia (male pattern hair loss), which is caused by a sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) hormone, alopecia universalis is believed to be an “autoimmune alopecia.” An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system – which normally protects the body from diseases – becomes overactive and attacks the body’s own tissues. When the immune system inappropriately attacks joints, it causes rheumatoid arthritis. When it attacks hair follicles, it causes autoimmune alopecias like alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, and alopecia universalis.
When a patient presented to the Yale department of dermatology with a complaint of a complete absence of all scalp and body hair, or alopecia universalis, the medical team had an interesting idea: why not try to treat this autoimmune disease with a medication proven to treat another autoimmune disease? The team did just that, and started the patient on a rheumatoid arthritis drug called Tofacitinib citrate. Within 2 months, the patient began to show regrowth of scalp and beard hair that previously had not grown for seven years. Encouraged, the team increased the medication, and by 8 months the patient regrew his eyelashes, eyebrows, armpit hair, facial hair, and completely restored his scalp hair.
According to the research team: “The results are exactly what we hoped for. This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with alopecia universalis. While it’s one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this man based on our current understanding of the disease and the drug.” The research team submitted a proposal for a trial of a Tofacitinib citrate cream to treat autoimmune alopecia, and they hope the future study will help other patients use the drug. “There are no good options for long-term treatment of alopecia universalis” said the dermatology researchers. “We believe the same results will be duplicated in other patients, and we plan to try.”
While the drug isn’t likely to have effect in androgenic alopecia patients, it is definitely exciting news for those suffering from autoimmune alopecias!
Blake Bloxham – formerly “Future_HT_Doc”
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