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Hairless? Arthritis Drugs Could Help

Update Date: Jun 20, 2014 06:22 PM EDT

A man with almost no hair on his body has grown a full head of it after a novel treatment by doctors, a new study is reporting. 

This is probably the first instance of a successful targeted treatment for the rare, highly visible disease alopecia universalis. 

According to the study, the patient has also grown eyebrows and eyelashes including facial, armpit and other hair. 

"The results are exactly what we hoped for," said Brett A. King, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine and senior author of a paper, in the press release. "This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition. While it's one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this man based on our current understanding of the disease and the drug. We believe the same results will be duplicated in other patients, and we plan to try."

Initially the patient was diagnosed with both alopecia universalis - a disease that results in loss of all body hair and plaque psoriasis - a condition characterized by scaly red areas of skin. 

"There are no good options for long-term treatment of alopecia universalis," said King, a clinician interested in the treatment of rare but devastating skin diseases. "The best available science suggested this might work, and it has."

The patient was given tofacitinib at 10 mg daily for the two months initially. Upon showing some improvement, he was treated with 15 mg daily. After three more months researchers noticed that the patient had completely regrown scalp hair and also had clearly visible eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial hair. 

"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."

"This case highlights the interplay between advances in science and the treatment of disease," King added, "and it provides a compelling example of the ways in which an increasingly complex understanding of medicine, combined with ingenuity in treatment, benefits patients."

Researchers have reported the results in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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