Hair Loss Disorder ITS related to Genes



Britney Spears




Researchers have implicated eight genes in the development of alopecia areata, a disorder that causes hair to thin and fall out.

The genes are already associated with other auto-immune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, meaning that drugs may already be in the pipeline that could benefit people with hair loss, the researchers said.

“This~greatly~accelerated~our~ability~to~think~about~new~drugs~for~patients~with~alopecia~areata~because~so~much~work~has~already~been~done~in~these~other~diseases,”~said~senior~study~author~Angela~Christiano,~professor~of~dermatology~and~genetics~&~development~at~Columbia~University~Medical~Center~in~New~York~City.~“It~is~a~huge~advantage.”

The~study~is~published~in~the~July~1~issue~of~Nature.

Alopecia~areata~affects~more~than~5~million~people~in~the~United~States,~according~to~the~National~Alopecia~Areata~Foundation,~making~it~one~of~the~most~common~autoimmune~diseases.~Hair~loss~may~be~confined~to~bald~patches~on~the~scalp,~but~in~some~cases~it~extends~to~the~whole~scalp~or~entire~body,~including~eyebrows~and~eyelashes.

Men~and~women~are~affected~equally,~yet~women~are~diagnosed~more~frequently~because~they~are~more~likely~to~seek~treatment.~It’s~a~misconception~that~men~suffer~less~from~it,~said~Vicki~Kalabokes,~president~and~CEO~of~the~alopecia~foundation,~which~helped~fund~the~research.

“It’s~very~traumatic~for~men,~and~it’s~harder~for~them~to~cover~it~up,”~Kalabokes~said.~“Hair~loss~is~life-altering.~You~have~lost~your~outward~identity.~You~haven’t~changed~inside,~but~that’s~not~what’s~seen~by~the~world.”

The~progression~of~the~disease~is~unpredictable;~some~people~may~lose~only~a~patch~of~hair,~while~others~may~lose~all~of~the~hair~on~their~scalp~over~a~few~days,~Kalabokes~said.~Hair~loss~can~be~especially~difficult~for~children,~she~added.

The~researchers~discovered~that~the~number~of~alopecia-associated~genes~a~person~had~correlated~with~the~severity~of~the~condition.~Those~who~carried~16~or~more~genes~(the~genes~are~in~pairs)~were~more~likely~to~progress~to~alopecia~universalis,~or~total~hair~loss.

Researchers~had~expected~that~alopecia~genes~would~be~the~same~as~those~associated~with~other~autoimmune~diseases~of~the~skin,~such~as~psoriasis~(in~which~the~immune~system~signals~the~overproduction~of~skin~cells,~resulting~in~dry,~scaly~lesions)~or~vitiligo~(loss~of~pigment~to~the~skin~when~cells~called~melanocytes~no~longer~function).

Yet~alopecia~and~psoriasis~had~only~one~of~the~eight~genes~in~common,~Christiano~said.

“We~undertook~this~genome-wide~association~study~to~ask~in~an~unbiased~way,~and~to~let~the~genes~tell~us,~what~are~the~likely~associations~with~alopecia~areata,”~Christiano~said.~“We~were~very~surprised~to~find~the~genes~that~came~up~have~a~mechanism~shared~by~type~I~diabetes~and~rheumatoid~arthritis.”

In~people~with~alopecia,~immune~system~T~cells~are~present~in~large~numbers~in~the~hair~follicle.~Under~a~microscope,~“it~looks~like~the~hair~follicle~is~being~swarmed~or~attacked~by~bees,~which~are~the~T~cells,”~she~explained.

What~researchers~didn’t~know~was~what~attracted~the~“bees”~in~the~first~place,~though~the~study~hints~at~the~answer.

Among~the~eight~genes,~one~in~particular~—~ULBP3~—~has~been~shown~to~attract~toxic~cells~that~can~invade~and~destroy~an~organ.~In~a~person~without~alopecia,~ULBP3~is~turned~off.~But~in~people~with~alopecia,~ULBP3~proteins~are~plentiful~in~the~follicle.

“In~people~with~alopecia~areata,~we~see~a~huge~expression~of~the~ULBP3~gene~in~the~outermost~layer~of~the~follicle,”~Christiano~said.~“ULBP3~is~a~danger~signal~that~signals~to~T~cells~to~come~in~and~attack~the~follicle.~It’s~like~putting~nectar~on~the~hair~follicle,~then~the~‘bees’~come~in~and~do~their~damage.”

When~the~follicle~is~attacked,~the~hair~falls~out.~If~the~T~cells~remain,~which~they~do~in~alopecia~areata,~the~follicle~goes~dormant.

No~treatments~are~currently~approved~by~the~U.S.~Food~and~Drug~Administration~for~alopecia~areata,~Kalabokes~said,~although~people~sometimes~pin~their~hopes~on~steroid~injections~into~the~scalp~and~other~unapproved~remedies.


Next when you go to a doctor blame your genes...



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