On this blog, I primarily focus on androgenic alopecia, which is also known as male pattern baldness (MPB). This kind of baldness results from male hormones (in particular, the derivative dihydrotestosterone, aka DHT) and an individual’s scalp hair follicles’ genetic susceptibility to miniaturization when under the influence of DHT. The vast majority of men who suffer from hair loss are experiencing androgenic alopecia.
Alopecia Areata, Totalis and Universalis
A less common form of hair loss is called alopecia areata in which hair is lost from some areas of the body in small clumps. More severe forms of alopecia areata include alopecia totalis (when hair is lost from the whole scalp) and alopecia universalis (when hair is lost from all over the body, including the scalp). One typical aspect of alopecia areata is something called exclamation point hair. This is where hairs are shaped like exclamation marks.
Today, it was announced that Yale scientists had cured alopecia universalis on a man via just administering an existing FDA-approved rheumatoid arthritis drug called tofacitinib citrate (brand name Xeljanz, manufactured by Pfizer). The photos they presented are quite extraordinary (also see study link at the end of this post):
Edit: Photo was removed from linked site.
Source: The Society for Investigative Dermatology and Yale University. Before and 8 months after photos.
Besides curing this person’s hair loss, the drug also significantly improved his psoriasis. Dr. Brett King and his wife Dr. Brittany Craiglow (the two scientists leading this experiment), credited Dr. Angela Christiano‘s earlier work (in which tofacitinib as well as ruxolitinib reversed alopecia areata in mice) as inspiring them to try this experiment in one of their human patients. They now hope to start larger clinical trials.
I believe that there could also be an autoimmune inflammatory process involved with androgenic alopecia (just as with alopecia areata and psoriasis). A large proportion of men suffering from androgenic alopecia complain about scalp itching, dryness, dandruff and psoriasis type symptoms. Many find Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo to be particularly effective at dealing with this inflammation. It would be quite something if tofacitinib also helped people like us who are suffering from androgenic alopecia.
The full article titled “Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Oral Tofacitinib Reverses Alopecia Universalis in a Patient with Plaque Psoriasis” is currently available online.
Update: CNN also now published this story, with a word of caution from George Cotsarelis regarding the side effects of tofacitinib, his opinion that there is no immune system component to androgenic alopecia, as well as more details about the actual patient (see photo below).
Update: Interesting update from Australian newspaper where Dr. King says he is getting 200-300 e-mails a day about this.