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June 30th, 2010
01:08 PM ET

Researchers find gene linked to hair loss

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center believe they have found the genetic basis of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles and causes people to lose their hair.

The findings could make it easier to develop new treatments for the condition, in which loss can range from patches on the scalp to complete absence of hair on the entire body. Affecting approximately 5.3 million people, AA is the most common autoimmune disease in humans and is second only to male pattern baldness, when it comes to common forms of hair loss.  There is no cure and no effective treatments, aside from painful steroid injections to the scalp that don't always work.

Dr. Angela Christiano, professor of dermatology and genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center, was lead author of the study. She noted her team's discovery is important because it was originally thought that AA was more related to inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis, where a particular cell attacks the skin. But during their research, Christiano and her investigators learned that AA is actually more genetically related to celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes – and since there are many drugs under development and some on the market already for the same gene targets, new treatments for AA should be relatively close by. That makes Christiano happy. Not only because her research will be helping millions of people, but she herself may benefit. She, too, suffers from AA.

"It gives us hope, that some day there may be a cure for this condition," she says. " It gives pharmaceutical companies a target to go forward and start developing new drugs to fight AA."

This research was conducted using more than 1,000 samples from the National Alopecia Areata Registry, a patient registry for alopecia areata funded by the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Columbia University Medical Center is one of five collection sites nationwide.  Christiano and her team uncovered eight genes that underpin alopecia areata. Among the eight genes, one stands out for its potential role in the onset of the disorder.

"This research is very exciting as alopecia areata affects a huge number of people worldwide," said Vicki Kalabokes, president and CEO of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation . "Hair loss is life-altering – sufferers, especially children, experience social stigma. It affects their quality of life and can lead to long-term psychosocial impact."

Alopecia areata usually starts with one or more small, round patches on the scalp and may eventually progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis). In some people, hair may grow back in or fall out again at any time. Not only is the condition difficult to deal with physically, but emotionally the patient never knows when it will happen again.

Christiano's team looked for a correlation between how many genes (each gene comes in two pairs) people with different severities of alopecia areata carried, and found that people who carried 13-14 genes had disease that did not progress, while those with 16 or more most often progressed to alopecia universalis, or total baldness.
With this new data, Christiano and Columbia researchers are developing a genetic test that may eventually predict the severity of disease.

"The advantage of this large sample size is that we can be sure that this group of genes was identified with a high statistical significance and did not happen by chance," said Christiano. "The next step is to replicate this study in future research


soundoff (169 Responses)
  1. Yudelkis

    I have alopecia for a long time. I would like to schedule an appointment to be treated. Please sent me the information so I can call

    June 30, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fancher

      Be nice to Yudelkis.

      June 30, 2010 at 20:39 | Report abuse |
    • mastafunk

      Be Proud!! – Like the Bald Eagle

      June 30, 2010 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      Yudelkis, please repeat ten times: "they *think* they found the -genetic basis- this is NOT the same as discovering a treatment"

      July 1, 2010 at 07:00 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      WHICH alopecia do you have? There are several types, only one of which was identified as having a probable genetic basis. And even then, doesn't correlate to a current treatment.
      It isn't like genetic replacement is a reality. That effectively means, you're still stuck with whatever genes you currently have, defects and all.
      Me? I'm hoping for full body replacement soon, this one is shot and the warranty is expired...

      July 1, 2010 at 10:30 | Report abuse |
    • John Frank, MD, Anapelli Hair Clinic, NYC

      This is a fascinating development from a respected hair loss scientific team at Columbia. It is particularly interesting to us because we deal with many different types and causes of hair loss. Many of them are treatable with either medications, behavior modification and surgery. However, Alopecia Areata may have a random course and without any universally proven treatments. We're always keeping an eye on advances in the genetic determination of those with the condition, and in any the potential treatments.

      July 7, 2010 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
  2. Cortney

    Thank you to Dr. Christiano and her team for years of dedicated work. Those of us in the AA community know she has a tireless dedication to this work. She is so humble about the significant impact she has had on our lives over the years. This finding will likely initiate steps toward clinical trials. My daughter is 9 years old and I was hesitant to imagine there would be "cure" for her Universalis in the decades ahead. Now, I am certain it is a distinct possibility.

    June 30, 2010 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Caroline

      Hi Cortney,

      I have a daughter who is almost 9 too. And also suffers from AU. Do you really think they are close to finding a cure? I hope so! Let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much.

      Caroline

      November 2, 2010 at 08:53 | Report abuse |
  3. Carla Laub

    This is great news since I have been afflicted with this disease for sometime.

    June 30, 2010 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. bubba

    My wife has suffered from AA for about 10 years. She went from a thick mane of luscious hair to completely bald to very thin, snow white hair. I can't tell you the toll it has taken on her self-esteem. She's always beautiful to me, and I tell her that, but I've learned how important hair is to women and their self-image. Thank you to these scientists and hope it leads to something.

    June 30, 2010 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Priscilla

      What you just said about your wife was really beautiful. I have had alopecia for a while now and I too have lost a majority of my hair. I can tell you first hand that hair is so important to women.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      I agree with the PP. What you said was wonderful! It's so hard to be a girl in your mid-20's and begin losing your hair, like I was. Fortunately, my husband feels the same way as you, but so many people aren't as lucky. It means so much to me when my husband tells me that he loves the way I look, even though I continue to lose my hair. Please continue to support your wife the way you are – it really does mean alot to women!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
  5. Paul

    My wife has AA and is currently totally without hair. It not only affects her appearance but really leaves her upset, depressed, and mostly frustrated because there are no treatments. It is also a real shame that insurance companies don't cover treatment for AA because they consider it a "cosmetic" problem and not a real disease. Hopefully with this breakthrough and ongoing treatment research she and others like her can gain their hair and normal life back! Many thanks to the research team!!!

    June 30, 2010 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sophia

      Hi Paul,

      I understand your wife's pain. I was losing my hair on a steady basis until it was balding on the top ... was diagnosed as having AA but in fact I am diabetic ... as soon as I was put on meformin it started to come back ... very slowly but not I have thicker hair and my scalp is almost covered over. I don't know if your wife is diabetic but she should be checked for that or PCOS ... again the treatment for women with PCOS [Poly Cyctic Ovarian Syndrome] can involve taking metformin which forces the body to accept insulin into the cell ... in other words, her hair loss could simply be literally a sign of malnutrition – she might only even be prediabetic and not really qualify as having PCOS – however, as the female system is so very sensitive even the slightest imbalance should be given a hard look. Encourage her to do girly things to boost her self-esteem and even though she might feel silly or is a 'purist' like me ... it is absolutely ok to look into hair pieces which can be attached in artful and creative ways to enhance her looks ... I view it now as the same as putting in a barrett. For woman especially, our hair is quite literally our crowning glory. I wish her well and hopes this might help. I tried everything and had begun to believe there was nothing I could do ... and am so glad I was wrong!

      July 1, 2010 at 07:01 | Report abuse |
    • Teresa

      Hi Paul. I have suffered with AA for 35 years. My insurance (which has changed over these many years) has always covered treatment for this as it is a disease and not considered cosmetic. I get injections monthly in my scalp. You should call your carrier.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse |
    • Lv2Bowl

      bubba,
      Has your wife ever checked with the organizations that provide free wigs? Locks of Love, Revlon, etc. are a couple of the places.

      My son started out with Alopecia Universalis when he was 9-1/2 yrs old (he now is 27) and now I guess it's Alopecia Totalis (he has eyebrows, short eyelashes, mustache/goutee, and some underarm hair). He's had these small areas of hair for about 10 yrs (eyebrows & eyelashes came back about 12 yrs old). When I hear that they are offering a "cure" I will let him know about this, not before.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:09 | Report abuse |
  6. Locode

    I hope the shampoo companies all pitch in to raise the funds needed for testing.

    June 30, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Rassayana Atrindh

    If only there a way to selectively turn this gene on for the legs and underarms...

    June 30, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • god

      yeah totally...and the back too..freaking hair..

      June 30, 2010 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
    • Fuzzy Wuzzy

      Don't forget your mustache.

      June 30, 2010 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
    • jenn

      Awesome!

      June 30, 2010 at 20:02 | Report abuse |
    • Angelina

      It's called laser hair removal and it works wonders! Now if i could only get the hair on the top of my head to stop thinning! 🙁

      July 1, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
  8. Kathy

    I also have Alopecia , I had it since 2000 , I started with small patches of missing hair the left side of my scalp area , I went to the Dr and they started Cortizone injections and they worked for awhile and then in 2004 I lost all my hair some grew back in (patches ) it was all white LOL @ age 47 and then I went and bought a hair wig that has helped my self -image and then in 2009 I lost my eyebrows & most of my eye lashes , so I try with the eyebrow pencil to apply the best I know how . It has been a pain sometimes , but guess I am thankful that the Good Lord Jesus Christ has a Plan "B" back up when the A Plan isnt working . Thankful still and my hubby loves me for me with very little hair . I hope the research will someday find a cure to this type of hair loss. Thanks from Kathy P.

    June 30, 2010 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ClaireD

      hehehe My hair grows out white too!
      No one in a barbershop can top those kind of highlights (=

      June 30, 2010 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
    • Casey

      Kathy, check out ibrowsers (a Canadian company) or blinkies in the states. both make excellent temporary eyebrow tattoos! much better than penciles

      June 30, 2010 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
  9. JT

    I have had alopecia since I was 5. It is nice to see that there are people who take it seriously and actively engaging in understanding the disorder. I have been wearing a hat for 11 months now because the patches have gotten so big and as an adult woman, it gets old. Best wishes with the ongoing research and keep it up. My husband has it as well and we can only wonder and wait to see if our children will develop it as well.

    June 30, 2010 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Edrick

    I want my hair back!! Please help

    June 30, 2010 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Q. Ball

      What's on your mind? The memory of a full head of hair?

      June 30, 2010 at 19:31 | Report abuse |
    • PB

      me too... I want my sexy back!!

      June 30, 2010 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  11. god

    I dont understand. I have genetic hair thinning. My father, grandfather, uncles are all bald. And I am thinning as well. Is this what is being solved here? Or is it some other disease? Also, will this help me from a therapy standpoint or is it purely as a preventative mechanism??

    June 30, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sam

      This is completely different.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
  12. CATom

    Please cure baldness so I can get laid again. Thanks!

    June 30, 2010 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • amina

      Hi CATom I really hope that you do get laid regardless if you have hair or not LOL

      June 30, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse |
    • zappadoodle

      Go ez my friend. Sean Connery got more than he could handle. I'm sure Vin Disel gets propositioned all the time.
      Telly Savales- Yikes-scary.

      June 30, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse |
    • Angelina

      Awww. Well if it makes you feel any better, i think bald guys are so hot! I always beg my husband to shave his head. I crush on older men with bald spots. So strange, I know, but I can't help it!

      July 1, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse |
  13. smoove dome

    As a man with Male pattern baldness I can relate IN SMALL PART to the women who suffer from AA. It killed my confidence and garners starres from freidns and families. . and comments they think you cannot hear. For a woman to undergo this must be a nightmare. I wish them all the best. You are all beautiful.

    June 30, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Karen

    I've been waiting to know the cause of alopecia areata since I was 16. I am 57. I experienced partial bouts in my youth and in my mid-40's, lost every hair on my head over three, torturous years. Seven years passed while bald and wearing a wig and then, it began to grow back until I had a whole head of hair again – and in its original auburn color. I still always have patches that fall out and after a long wait, grow back again. No doubt I seem like one of the very lucky ones to the sufferers of alopecia that never have had any resolution at all. Only people with AA know how sad, freakish and frightening it is to have it. It's a hard affliction in a world where female beauty and appearance are valued above all else. I will rejoice anonymously with all of my fellow sufferers when a meaningful treatment is finally at hand for all of us.

    June 30, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Melanie

    I am in remission from alopecia areata. I have had 3 occurrences. The first time I got it I was 19 years old and it lasted for over 2 years. I lost most of my hair in the back and had many painful steroid treatments. I truly believe that it was caused by stress – I was in a terrible relationship with a much older man and as soon as I moved out – my hair started to grow back. The second time – I was in my early 30's – going thru a divorce and my father had brain cancer. I found a great doctor in NYC – Dr. Lewenberg would created a lotion that is a mixture of minoxidil and tretinoin and my hair grew quickly back fairly quickly. I noticed a small spot when I turned 40 (again a very stressful time in my life) and ordered the mixture again though I lived in TX. I also went to a local doctor and got a few steroid shots on the small spot (one time visit) – and my hair loss stopped almost immediately and grew quickly back. My doctor in TX was amazed on how quickly my hair loss went into remission when I went in for a follow-up and I told him about Dr Lewenberg's lotion that I was using. I swear by Dr. Lewenberg's lotion and keep a bottle handy just in case I notice a spot coming on or excess shedding when I shampoo my hair. I am now 47 and in remission for 7 years.

    June 30, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Colette

      I have been experiencing all over shedding since January. The shedding seems to have stabilized but the thinned out hair has not grown back yet. The dermatologist has me on hair supplements such as Biotin Forte and Biosil as well as eating more protein. Would you think that Dr. Lewenberg's lotion would work for this type of situation? If so, is he still practicing in NYC? Thanks for your help!

      June 30, 2010 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
    • martin marek

      Hey Melanie, thank you for your response. wow, you are one of the lucky ones! congrats! would you please email me, i wanted to find out more about this lotion that you said you are using, i'm at mmarek@aglresources.com

      thanks so much, martin

      July 1, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Tumra

      Could you send the information to me too about the lotion? My teenage son has AA and I would like to have him try it.

      tamaranorthway@yahoo.com

      thank you! 🙂

      July 1, 2010 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Hi everyone who replied to me... I wrote you back personally if you gave me your email; below is Dr. Lewenberg's website where you can read all about his lotion and order it:

      http://baldspot.com/

      It worked for me and I hope it will work for you!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • TedT

      WARNING:
      One should never not post one’s email addresses without obfuscating else the Internet BOTS shall harvest one’s email address as targets for SPAM and phishing.
      . . . .
      Thus myname@provider.com should be posted as myname at domain dot com
      or
      post as my&name at domain & dot & com with the admonition to remove all ampersands and spaces.
      . . . .
      Just a words of caution.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Malanie- Where can I get some of this lotion?! I have used shots for the past three months, and with no luck. this is the first time they have not worked. I dont have any insurance so the cost is obviously outweighing the effects. Thanks!!

      July 1, 2010 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Sorry I spelt your name wrong Melanie..lol. Woops

      July 1, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      I had it when I was 19. Saw a dermatologist who was working with the same mixture. I had goo results and haven't suffered any loss since then.

      July 1, 2010 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • Ashley G

      Where can I get this lotion??? I am 24 and am just about completely bald now except for a little patch in the front. Coming from long thick hair to basically nothing is really painful for me and i need answers. Maybe this lotion could be me out.

      July 6, 2010 at 10:04 | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      My son was recently diagnosed with Alopecia-it has progressed quickly.Could you please post more info on Dr Lewenberg.
      Is he a dermatologist? Could you post his full name? Thank you

      August 7, 2010 at 12:04 | Report abuse |
  16. Mary

    This is a serious disorder. It is not just cosmetic. Some people lose their eyebrows, eyelashes and nose hair, which are natural defenses against illnesses and irritation. Children and adults can be insensitive and even cruel in their thoughtless comments and taunts. People often assume that the afflicted person has cancer and made personal and inappropriate comments. Please do not joke about this. Thanks to those who have dedicated themselves to finding a cure.

    June 30, 2010 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • matt

      Thanks mary for your kind words It means a lot to those who suffer from this disease.

      September 7, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse |
  17. Jesus

    Forget about cancer and heart disease cures...I want my hair back! Get cracking on developing an anti-baldness pill. You scientists have your priorities all messed up.

    June 30, 2010 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • amy

      dear jesus... wow! you are ignorant. there are hundreds of thousands of children suffering for a LIFETIME from hairloss due to alopecia areata. just try to imagine a child 5-year-old having huge fistfulls of hair falling out until there was nothing left. or myself... who, at 30 years old had all of my hair fallout within three months... every single hair on my entire head... my eyelashes, eybrows... gone. you don't sound like a very empathetic person, so i'm sure you can't imagine the crushing emotional pain this disease causes for so very many people around the world.

      June 30, 2010 at 23:00 | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      I'm with you! Don't talk to me about medical miracles until you can grow hair!!!

      July 1, 2010 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  18. ClaireD

    Thanks so much for all your research! This really means a lot. I've had AA since I was 2 and just last year it's been rapidly becoming worse. I've had steroid injections (sometimes as many as 24) as well as squaric acid applied to my scalp. Both of these "treatments" seemed to work well short-term, but they gave me adverse side-effects in the long run. The disease itself may not be physically painful, but the treatments often have the potential to be.

    Not enough words can describe how thrilled I am and how thousands of people will be!

    June 30, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TaraMayK

      ClaireD, how has it been for you. I wonder what it will be like for my son. He is 2 soon to be 3 but we just found out in April he has AA, possibly AT as it seems to be getting worse since. It started out as 1 small patch and now with it being July he now has 6 noticeable patches all the size of a quarter and several more starting.. I just wonder how it will be and what i should expect for him. I know right now he is too young to understand or care but I know kids are cruel and the teasing will start some day..I just wonder what I can do for him emotionally to help prepare him..I guess...

      July 1, 2010 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
    • ClaireD

      I’m so sorry to hear about your son! But the best thing you can do is not to worry him.

      Having AA at such a young age is perhaps better than developing it later in life. Having read your comment, I realized that I’ve never really separated myself from the disease. It’s just something that is a part of me, like a recurring thought or a personality trait. It’s not tangible, but I know it’s there.

      Try your best not to make him feel different. Show him that you care and that you want to help treat the problem. Do this by taking him to the doctor for treatment, giving him the prescribed medication, or applying the topical for him- but that in itself is enough. It’s enough to show him that you care, but it’s not to the point where he begins to question if he’s “normal.” Please don’t look at him in that “funny” way. Sometimes my parents do that to me, and it startles me.

      Just as long as your son doesn’t openly tell everyone about his AA, he shouldn’t have to worry about being called “diseased” or any other cruel things. My hair grows out white, although I naturally have black hair. I’ve given reasons such as “bleaching my hair white because I felt like it” or “the barber made a mistake” (in order to explain the lack of pigmentation). Lame excuses, but they work.

      To cover his bald spots as best as possible, maybe grow out your son’s hair. It will be easier to part his hair in such a way that most spots should be covered. And if the thinning is much worse than that, wrapping a scarf around his head or having him wear a baseball cap should suffice.

      Some of my friends know about this problem and have been extremely supportive. Your son will most likely find close friends who will do the same for him, willing to cover his back in case anyone else decides to be cruel. My counselor and most of my teachers know about my AA, and are willing to tell me if anything is “showing.”

      One last thing: if your son has to get steroid injections, give him your hand and let him squeeze it as hard as he wishes to. Teddy bears work nicely too.

      And that’s how it’s been for me. I’m 95% percent okay living with my AA, and all the positive comes from how others react to it. The other 5% comes from being self-conscious about it, but that’s normal for anyone living with AA.

      I wish you and your son the best of luck! And remember, it’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal.

      (=

      July 4, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
  19. Beth Aldridge

    Kathy: I highly suggest finding a Sephora Beauty Store as close as you can; walk in & ask them to SHOW YOU how to use either the Lorac or Smashbox product for eyebrows!! Immensely better than a pencil!! I have had Alopecia Universalis for 3 years; I paint on the eyebrows & glue on the eyelashes everyday. I choose not to wear a scalp prosthetic; they are hot, itchy, expensive & have not found one yet that looks close to 'real'.
    I have real hopes for this breakthrough – I'm tired of looking like a freakshow! Could I be worse off? Yes. Does that diminish my feelings? No. I'm tired of hearing, "It's ONLY hair"...it was MY hair & I liked it!! And if one more person tells me I'm beautiful on the INSIDE – I'm gonna throw up in their lap!!

    I would give everything I have to look normal again!!

    June 30, 2010 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deb

      Have you tried a wig? There are some beautiful ones out there these days (and I'm not talking about the Paula young ones). There are even wigs that don't have to be clipped into hair. While nothing can replace your hair, this might be an option for you. Check out Milano Wigs(they're the ones that don't need to be clipped in they jsut stay on your head), Freeda Wigs, Shevy Wigs (most probably the most realistic wigs on the market, lots of $$$ though). G'Luck!

      July 1, 2010 at 02:59 | Report abuse |
    • reality check

      Be careful what you wish for. Be grateful for what you have.

      July 1, 2010 at 08:43 | Report abuse |
  20. Casey

    Ive had alopecia universalis since I was 14. I wouldnt say I suffered, since im perfectly healthy, but emotionally it can be very hard. I am always conflicted over using resources to cure this, since it is superficial, but I must say I got very excited reading this article. I know a lot of people suffer mentally with this disease, and so it should be given the same amount of dedication that people give to acne and such.

    June 30, 2010 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Amby

    I have also had AA before, and in my case it was definitely caused by stress related to some unpleasant major life events. Even though my condition has significantly improved, my hair is now thinner where the AA used to be, but thankfully you can barely see it - it is more of something you feel if you touch that area, or when I cut my hair really low. I did have the steroid injections (twice) after trying some topical ointments.

    One question I have is - how can I give a genetic sample to contribute to this research? And something I would want the scientists to consider is how the stress factor interacts with genetics, because no one else in my immediate family who has not experienced the same stress, has had AA, and I believe my improvement was not only because of treatments but also because life got better (because the improvement didn't happen very soon after treatment, but much later after life got better).

    June 30, 2010 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SheilaM

      Here isinformation on participating in the National Alopecia Areata Registry (NAAR):

      http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/departments-programs-and-labs/programs-centers-institutes/alopecia-areata-registry/how-to-enroll/index.html

      July 1, 2010 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
    • kleenhed

      http://www.mdanderson.org/education-and-research/departments-programs-and-labs/programs-centers-institutes/alopecia-areata-registry/index.html

      July 1, 2010 at 11:34 | Report abuse |
    • sooner

      Your cause sounds more like mine. I'm sure there is a huge stress factor. No one has mentioned that their hair fell out around a pimple or raised blemish in the scalp. I developed patches of pimples and the hair fell out in those areas. My dermatologist did a biopsy which came back as Alopecia Areata. After three years of breakouts and hair fall out, my hair is finally filling in all of the patches. I also believe there is a genetic factor as my hair began thinning at puberty. I have an identical twin sister who has experienced the same hair thinning but she has not developed Alopecia. It has been a major ordeal, but it could have been much worse. I pray for those doctors and researchers who are working for all of us with this disease.

      December 2, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
  22. tom palka

    Less hair..more head.

    June 30, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. IANS

    Im a guy, 51, developed AA when I was in grade school, got worse by Junior high, got tired of the teasing and one day decided, it's not my problem. When I look in the mirror, I see me, if others don't, that's not my problem. I shavd my head, held it high and have never turned back and wished for a full head of hair. Eventually, it all went, by 40 it was universalis, not a hair to be found. It's great to see this research, hopefully it will lead to young children and women not having to deal with the looks, comments, and feeling of being unwanted or freakish. Bottom line, research is great, three cheers but remember the solution is within your mind more than under your skin.

    June 30, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Faith Jennings

    I have Alopecia Universalis. It started out as AA and progressed rapidly. I would like to be part of a study. I have a family history of Type 1 & 2 Diabetes and pernicious anemia. Please contact me for further information regarding any study. Thank you.

    June 30, 2010 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Fay

    I started with AA as a child and it progressed through my teenage years. What a nightmare! It all came out in my 20's and I have worn a wig ever since. The eyebrows are now tatoos- much better than pencils. A gift to myself. I am in my 50's now. Thankfully none of my 4 kids have had this- their dad normal. I have always known it was genetic. My 3 other siblings have no symptoms but it is in my family- grandparents and dad- although not as severe as I have it. I look at children today and admire their courage to be different. I am so thankful for all the research- I doubt it will help me but wow- I can only imagine having hair again!

    June 30, 2010 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Norma Jean Baker

      Mrs. Fay,
      I bet you are a beautiful woman inside & out with or without hair. You are a courageous lady i'm sure! =)
      <3 Marilyn

      July 1, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse |
  26. Tawonna

    I have had Alopecia since high school. I had dreads for many years and I was hidding it. About 2 months ago. I was fed up. I had hair all around my head except for the top of my head. I finally had someone to cut my hair. When my hair was cut...I felt FREE!!!!! I love my hair cut and I am not ashamed anymore!

    June 30, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Kathy

    Thanks to Beth A . & Casey for the info on the eyebrows , I will check it out , I am in the state of Louisiana . Thanks for all the help. Kathy P

    June 30, 2010 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Caitlin

      I have AU and I use (amazing!) realistic eyebrows from headcovers.com No one believes that I have false eyebrows and the adhesive is very gentle and non-irritating on the skin. http://www.headcovers.com/wigs/eyebrows-lashes/

      June 30, 2010 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
  28. shawn

    Hopefully a cure comes from this research...fast! I've had AA for over 20 years and I would say that it has altered my social development to some extent...it's probably made me more inhibited. In other ways it may have made me stronger. At any rate it would be soooooooo nice to see some hair on this bald head. Much thanks to the researchers!!!!!!!!!

    July 1, 2010 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Thea Chassin for Bald Girls Do Lunch

    So far, no autoimmune diseases have cures. The tagging of genetic markers is interesting science but a very long way off from clinical trials for effective treatments. That's why knowing how to live a beautiful alopecian life today is imperative. For women, especially, living that successful life with alopecia is just an email away. Contact our award-winning nonprofit support network for women with all forms of alopecia areata, http://www.BaldGirlsDoLunch.org. Stop by the site. Read what women like you are saying about their life-enhancing BGDL experiences. And yes. we wear wigs, too. Bald? So What! Know your choices and use them all on your terms. It's what we do best.

    Ask about our BGDL brow sealer kit for women with no brows.

    Thea Chassin, president
    http://www.BaldGirlsDoLunch.org
    info@baldgirlsdolunch.org
    The only 501c3 created specifically for women with Alopecia Areata since 2007.

    July 1, 2010 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Karen

    I took my son to the doctor when he was 2 and a half years old because he was losing patches of hair; completely bald in some spots and was told that he probably had alopecia and maybe was under some stress. 2 weeks later, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. The hair came back. He had a flu virus before all that started which triggered the autoimmune response. I always suspected the two things were related but his doctor insisted they weren't at the time.

    July 1, 2010 at 03:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Alastair

    Congratulations to Dr Christiano.Hopefully this will assist researchers understand the disease better and maybe find a cure. My suggestion,for what it is worth, is to research Wafarin if there are perhaps a number of other alopecia sufferers out there with a similar experience to mine. I'm a 50 year old male with Alopecia universalis for the past 10 years. I have fortunately managed to accept my appearance without stressing over it but I can imagine how devastating it must be, particularly for children.I tried Methatrexate as an experiment under the supervision of Dr Nonhlanhla Khumalo of UCT following encouraging research from a preliminary 2006 study by a French Dermatologist, Dr Pascal Joly– I experienced some hair growth but insufficient to warrant the negative side effects of the MTX and so stopped after about 2 years a year or so ago. The little bit of hair growth I was experiencing stopped when I stopped the MTX. I've now been on Wafarin for the past 4 months to thin my blood because of a Deep Vein Thrombosis and I've noticed that I'm experiencing a little bit of eyebrow and eyelash hair growth. Possibly some sort of side effect of the Wafarin? It might be useful for researchers to know if anyone with Alopecia who coincidentally has had to go on Wafarin has experienced anything similar! Given that Wafarin is a quite widely used drug, there are probably quite a lot of Alopecia sufferers out there who coincidentally have had to use Wafarin for unrelated reasons and who might be in a position to comment on the effect, if any, on hair growth when they started taking and/or stopped taking Wafarin. Let's see!

    July 1, 2010 at 05:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jean

    I have suffered from hair loss for more than 15 years. I tried tonics and lotions, shots, wiglets, shake-on hair, full wigs, then finally went to Hair Club in Des Moines, Iowa. With my condition, they couldn't regrow my hair, but they gave me thick, pretty hair replacement that helps my lifestyle. Unlike my other masking attempts, I can swim in my new hair, it doesn't fall off, etc. I love my look – it has given me a huge confidence boost, but I would still give anything to have my own growing hair back. I have a lot of other things going for me in my life, but my hair is one thing I wish for often.

    July 1, 2010 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Beth Aldridge

    Thanks to Caitlin & the others for the eyebrow options; I have found false eyebrows online, a little on the expensive side & I have only seen them in England.

    July 1, 2010 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Linda

    I have had AA since 1991. I had beautiful hair and it began to fall. I am now 63. I have always thought it was an inflamed thyroid condition. I did learn how to work with wigs. If Dolly can get away with it, I knew I could. Now, every day somebody tells me how fantastic my hair looks. Inside my thought is, “Do you want to wear it”. I have realized this is a condition I cannot control, and determined to make the best of it. After all, I can walk, talk, work, and be a wife, mother and grandmother. It is okay.

    July 1, 2010 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Joaquim

    My daughter is 10 and her hair is thinning. I've been to 4 pediatric, 1 gynecologist, 2 endocrinologist, 2 dermatologist doctors. They blame on stress! It's too bad and so frustrating that the doctors know so little about alopecia.We have a family history of male and female baldness. I came across hyperandrogenism in women when I was googling. I will persue this path now.Shame on doctors and thank you google because now I have some hope.Thank you too Dr. Angela Christiano!

    July 1, 2010 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. TedT

    My wife was prescribed Depakote as an anti epilepsy drug. Within three weeks of beginning the regimen, albeit a a low dosage rate, my wife was beset with alopeccia universalis (total hair loss). Despite the fact that the Depakote regimen was terminated six years ago, there has been absolutely no regrowth of any hair.

    July 1, 2010 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Amy

    I've was diagnosed at 2 with alopecia areata and it all fell out in one sitting when I was around 7.. I've pretty much had alopecia universalis since then, I'm now 31, with a couple of times in college it just grew back on my head and then would fall out again. I'd rather have nothing than for it to fall out.. it's definitey been very tough emotionally thru the years, but it is what is and I have to accept it. Took a long time for that to occur.. but I know things could be SO much worse and have to be grateful for what I have– at the end of the day it really is JUST hair!! I'm part of the National Alopecia Registry so hopefully my sample helped with this discovery.. here's to hoping to a CURE in my lifetime!!!!

    July 1, 2010 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TedT

      My wife, our children and spouses, my wife’s sister and children and spouses, routinely see my wife sans hair. Took a bit for my wife to be acclimated and resigned.
      . . . . .
      Within weeks of the onset, my wife acquired a wig. Now my wife has multiple ones, in multiple styles and in multiple colors.
      . . . .
      Yes very (extremely) traumatic then and now with sharp pangs of angst, but now I have a choice of a blond, brunette, redhead when we go out. I just call ahead as I drive home. The problem now is that I need to remember today’s color when we go out so I can locate her in a crowd.
      . . . . .
      One time at a dinner party in hour home, my wife excused herself and went to the bedroom. I was not paying attention when she returned, but I did notice that everyone was a gape after she took her seat again. Why? My wife felt uncomfortable with one wig so and she went and changed to a different wig and color.
      . . . . .
      Buying a new wig is therapeutic for her much the same way as some women buy a new pocket book or pair of shoes.
      . . . . .
      Yes, I am irreverent…but we have been married for many years and we still sleep together.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
    • Felix

      I feel the same way Amy. I've had alopecia since the age of 5 in one iteration or another. I'm currently 29 and still no hair. But in the end, its just hair. I have a great family, great friends, and a beautiful nephew who is very open minded to different people. To parents with children with alopecia, give them a normal childhood. Do not shelter them. They can teach other children a few things about being different in a world where we are all different one way or another

      July 1, 2010 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
  38. Mike

    I advise everyone here to do some additional research because I do not believe this article is accurate. I recall from my biology dissertation that alopecia areata is a sex-linked gene that resides on the X-chromosome and is triggered by increases in DHA-testosterone. I do not recall AA being an auto-immune disease.

    July 1, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      You couldn't be farther from the truth.. alopecia areata is an auto immune disease and has been one since the beginning of tiem. Please do your research and don't post things that are so inaccurate. And it has nothing do with the sex chromosome.. do you have the disease? Have you spent years learning about it from top doctors? Nope? Didn't think so..

      July 1, 2010 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
    • Teresa

      Mike, I have had AA for 36 years. It is an auto-immune disease and has absolutely nothing to do with chromosomes.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • linda carraway

      And thats why they call it RESEARCH.!!!!!!! What if the male chromesone are the only ones affected!!!!!!!???????????????????????????/

      July 1, 2010 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
  39. Sam

    My usual routine

    1) Wake up in the morning
    2) Eat breakfast
    3) Read the most god awful, misunderstood, overhyped, useless, sometimes completely fabricated medical discovery on CNN.

    CNN, you never miss. And for those who keep asking for a treatment, there isn't one and it wouldn't help you anyway. This has nothing to do with male pattern baldness. Also, I highly doubt this is the most common autoimmune disease.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      Um.. you obviously know nothing about AA! So until you do you shouldn't make comments like that. I've been to the Cleveland Clinic for testing when I was younger, have seen the best of the dermatologists.. and I'm pretty sure that a doctor who studies only this would know that it is the most common autoimmune disease! Thanks for being arrogant

      July 1, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
  40. Barbara

    Dear Mike

    You are wrong. They have been working on this for at least 28 years that I am aware of because I am AMy's mother and a nurse. They would not have comeout with such a report if they did not have facts to back it up. We belong to NAAF and get our magazine and this MD has been working diligently on this for quite awhile. As a mother who has watched her daughter be tormented and teased and who has had to have conselling to get her to where she is today I say THANK YOU to the doctors for not thinking this was just a cosmetic issue and that these people were just being vain. My daughter joined the registry to not only try to get a cure for her but for everyone else. So – do not bash the hope that this article has given today to many many people. Please let them remain positive!!!! We certainly are going to do so and if they need us to help – you can be sure Amy will be ready, willing and able to help not only herself but the rest of those affected by this disease.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael S

      Too bad there is no way to dedicate any hair donations, I would do it for every child on the list, since I have hair, lots of it, and it grows to the 10" requirment within 2 years, I could do my part. And I am glad these Dr.'s are well more informed that even if the effects of an autoimmune disorder is "cosmetic" it doesn't mean there aren't more bothersome side effects besides hair loss, nevermind how mean people are, as someone with a different genetic disorder, I am always asked if I play basketball just because I am very tall and thin. It always takes more thana a simple no... Good for you, stay strong, and tell your daughter to do the same.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:49 | Report abuse |
  41. Diana P

    This article is amazing. It finally answers the huge question, why? My hair started falling out right before I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid A. It was so distressing. I never lost all of it but came close. Also lost most eyebrows and lashes. With mine, it seems to be a cycle of fill in some then thin again. Always wondering why is this happening. I believe this article explains a lot of questions for me.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Barbara

    Sam

    Thanks for our WORDS OF WISDOM!!!! Thanks for making these individuals feel so LOVED!!! Why do you feel the need to be so arrogant? Have you read any literature on AA or do you always just speak without knowledge!!! I am sure the people with AA are glad you are not a reasearcher!!!!!

    July 1, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mona

    Have had all three types of A; lost hair (AA) at 3, then again at 9-12 (AU), finally lost it all at 21(AT). Many family members on father's side with Diabetes, types 1 and 2. Interesting connection. Came to appreciate all the lessons this condition taught me about myself and others, and frankly would not want to grow it back, but empathize with what others are now going through...stay strong. Best to all and thanks for the info about "Blinkies."

    July 1, 2010 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Michael S

    Good news for the kids that have this, but since effective treatment is still a long ways off, don't worry, Lock of Love will still be getting a new "pony" from me every other year.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Interesting

    Yes lets spend millions or even billions so people can have hair. I would prefer finding cures for things that kill you not change the hair line.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      WOW to interesting!! I'm guessing you don't have the disease and haven't spent years and years dealing with tormenting, teasing, self esteem issues, etc.. yes this is not fatal, but it is life threatening emotionally.. people like you are so arrogant and have NO IDEA what it is like to have this disease.. to find a cure would be amazing in SO many ways!!! Thankfully there are more people who care and understand, then they are people like you!

      July 1, 2010 at 10:51 | Report abuse |
    • Cassie

      I understand the urgency for curing diseases that kill, but unless you have had AA or care about someone who does you don't know how harmful this disease can be. Please try to be considerate of those of us who are affected by AA.

      July 1, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse |
  46. TinaC

    The most discable thing about medicine and biotech today is that cures will never be made anymore. No, instead biotech companies will create a "treatment" that will require people to continuously use and pay for some drug for the rest of their lives lest they want the symptoms to return.

    Think about it: when was the last time modern medicine ever truly cured something?

    July 1, 2010 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. TinaC

    Meant to type, "despicable."

    July 1, 2010 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Mother of AU

    When my son was five, he lost all of his hair and spent the next ten years completely bald all over his body. We spent years researching and talking to doctors all over the world, trying to find a cure. My pediatrician told us no one knows where it comes from or how to cure it. He did say it was an autoimmune disease much like Lupus. My son went through every kind of procedure from shots on his scalp to poison ivy rubs but nothing worked. When he started High School, all of his hair grew back and now he is covered with it. We don't know why or how. During his time of AU, he also had horrible allergies along with severe asthma and I think this had something to do with it. As soon as we cured those two things, the hair came back. An interesting note, my good friend who lived down the street has a son who also got AU and still has it to this day. Something in the soil or water? Food or other toxins?

    July 1, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Various_Authors

    They've been claiming breakthroughs on the cause and possible cure for baldness since back when it wasn't a concern of mine.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TedT

      Baldness (male pattern) and alopeccia are two different contexts. One needs to become educated and informed to eruditely comment without offending those who must endure. Alopeccia universalis = all hair is lost, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, etc. What helps keep dust from one’s eyes? Answer = eyelashes.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:28 | Report abuse |
  50. sj2151

    Sounds good. But this doesn't make sense. I'm losing hair on my head but growing more and more hair on my backside. If they can figure out what's causing the hair growth on my back then maybe they will have a treatment for baldness.

    July 1, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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