Almost one in 500 people and one in 1000 Brits are said to suffer from alopecia areata. It most commonly occurs in young adults aged been 15 and 29.
The condition is believed to be the result of an immune system problem which destroys hair follicle cells.
There are no treatment options and some patients experience natural re-growth of hair, whilst others remain bald for life.
Scientists based at Columbia University Medical Centre, New York have been able to find the exact cells which destroy the hair follicles. These are called T-cell immune cells.
They used mice for to test several treatments known for stopping the cells’ activity and the results were positive. One of the drugs, ruxolitninib, was then used on three men who were almost completely bald due to the condition.
These males were required to take a pill twice a day and after four to five months, all had experienced a full head of hair regrowth.
Although the drug may be successful in the treatment of alopecia, there is no suggestion that it could be the cure for male pattern baldness which affects about 6.5 million British males. This condition comes with age and happens when testosterone causes the shrinkage and non-functioning of hair follicles.
One of the authors of the study, Dr Raphael Clynes, said that testing has only recently commenced in patients, but if the drug proves to be safe and successful, it could have a dramatic impact on those who are affected by the disease.
Another author related to the study, from Columbia University, Professor Angela Christiano, said that the condition has a profound effect on the lives of sufferers and these results could be a huge step forward for them.
A practising dermatologist at Columbia University, Professor David Bickers, said that there are very few aids in the treatment of the condition that have shown any success and this result is a major step forward in care for sufferers.
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