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FDA-Approved Drug Can Restore Hair In Patients With Alopecia Areata

Update Date: Aug 18, 2014 10:26 AM EDT

Researchers have identified the immune cells responsible for destroying hair follicles in patients with alopecia areata, according to a study. They also tested an FDA-approved drug that eliminated these immune cells and restored hair growth in patients. 

Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. 

In the study, researchers reported initial results from an ongoing clinical trial of the drug, which has produced complete hair regrowth in several patients with moderate-to-severe alopecia areata. 

The study in question has included data from three participants; each of them experienced total hair regrowth within five months of the start of the treatment, the press release added.

"We've only begun testing the drug in patients, but if the drug continues to be successful and safe, it will have a dramatic positive impact on the lives of people with this disease," added Raphael Clynes, MD, PhD, who led the research, along with Angela M. Christiano, PhD, professor in the Departments of Dermatology and of Genetics and Development at CUMC, in the press release. 

Researchers tested two FDA-approved JAK inhibitors, namely ruxolitinib and tofacitinib. They noted that these two drugs were able to block the immune pathways, stopping the attack on the hair follicles.

"We still need to do more testing to establish that ruxolitinib should be used in alopecia areata, but this is exciting news for patients and their physicians," Dr. Clynes said. "This disease has been completely understudied-until now, only two small clinical trials evaluating targeted therapies in alopecia areata have been performed, largely because of the lack of mechanistic insight into it."

Findings of the study will be published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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