Arthritis drug found to boost hair growth for alopecia sufferer

alopeciaMale hair loss is not a life-threatening condition. Nobody has ever died from losing hair on the scalp, or indeed anywhere else around the body. However, it is widely accepted that for some men, losing their hair can have massive emotional and psychological damage.

One of the most common causes of hair loss is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that typically causes round patches of rapid hair loss from some or even all areas of the body, but usually the scalp is the main area afflicted.

A more severe form of alopecia areata is known as alopecia universalis, whereby the sufferer unfortunately experiences total loss of all body hair. Perhaps the most well-known person to have alopecia universalis is comedian and star of Little Britain, Matt Lucas.

There remains no standard treatment or permanent cure for alopecia universalis, but experts have studied the possibilities of various treatments, such as immunomodulatory agents like imiquimod (the active ingredient in Aldara cream, used to treat genital warts).

However, doctors at Yale University in the U.S. have remarkably been able to reverse alopecia universalis in a 25-year-old unnamed male who also had plaque psoriasis. The man had initially requested help for his psoriasis, another autoimmune condition.

The doctors at Yale pondered if they could possibly treat both autoimmune problems with one single treatment, deciding to try the Pfizer-manufactured arthritis medication Xeljanz (tofacitinib citrate). This was chosen specifically as according to Science World Report, the drug had found to be effective in mice at treating both psoriasis and alopecia.

The patient was first administered with tofacitinib at 10mg daily by the doctors, and his psoriasis showed some improvement. However, he had also grown scalp and facial hair – the first hair he had grown in these areas for a staggering seven years.

After three more additional months of therapy, this time at a 15mg dose, the patient had benefited from a complete regrowth in scalp hair and quite visible eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair, as well as armpit and other hair, the doctors commented.

“The results are exactly what we hoped for,” said Brett A. King, M.D., senior author of the paper, published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. “This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition.”

“There are no good options for long-term treatment of alopecia universalis,” added King. “The best available science suggested this might work, and it has.”

According to King, scientists think the drug boosts hair growth by stopping the immune attack on hair follicles.

“By eight months there was full regrowth of hair,” said co-author Brittany G. Craiglow, M.D. “The patient has reported feeling no side effects, and we’ve seen no lab test abnormalities, either.”

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