Research Progress Related to Alopecia Areata
Investigators at research institutions across the country, many supported by the National Institutes of Health, are working to understand what causes alopecia areata and to develop new treatment strategies.
Following are examples of studies that are ongoing.
- Investigators are working to identify the immune abnormalities that underlie alopecia areata, and to find ways to lessen them. These studies may also uncover biomarkers that researchers can use to measure disease severity and the effectiveness of experimental therapies.
- Genetics play a role in who gets alopecia areata, but only a few disease genes have been found so far. Investigators are working to identify additional disease genes by comparing the genomes of people with alopecia areata to controls. This knowledge may help them better understand what causes the disease, and may lead to new treatment approaches.
- In addition to genetics, researchers believe that environmental factors play a part in alopecia areata. Scientists are investigating whether factors such as stress, diet, or the microbiome (the collection of all the microbes that inhabit the human body) are disease triggers.
- Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are a newer class of drugs that, when taken orally, have proven effective in treating severe cases of alopecia areata. But hair tends to fall out again when the medication is stopped. Clinical trials are underway to test the safety and efficacy of long-term regimens of the drug, as well as topical formulations that can be directly applied to bald areas.
- Inflammation of hair follicles is a key feature of alopecia areata, and research has uncovered some of the inflammatory molecules that are likely to be involved. Clinical trials are testing the efficacy of medications called biologic response modifiers, which help to decrease or stop inflammation by targeting specific immune molecules.
For more info
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health
National Alopecia Areata Foundation
Society for Pediatric Dermatology
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