WEDNESDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- 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 autoimmune 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 a
All rights reserved