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Arthritis Drug Helped Bald Man Regrow Hair

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Jun 20, 2014 06:31 AM EDT
These panels show the patient's head a) before treatmen with tofacitinib, b) two months into treatment, c) five months into treatment, and d) eight months into treatment.
These panels show the patient's head a) before treatmen with tofacitinib, b) two months into treatment, c) five months into treatment, and d) eight months into treatment. (Photo : Yale University.)

A drug used to treat arthritis has helped a hairless man not only regrow a full head of hair, but also eyebrows, eyelashes and armpit hair, a new study from Yale University stated.

The man, researchers said, was 25 years old when he was diagnosed with a condition called alopecia universalis. The disease, which causes hair loss, doesn't respond to any known medication.

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The unusual, targeted treatment using arthritis drug called tofacitinib citrate helped the man regrow hair.

"The results are exactly what we hoped for," said Dr. Brett A. King, assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale University School of Medicine and senior author of a paper, according to a news 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."

Alopecia universalis is an uncommon type of alopecia areata, which is charecterized by hair loss due to unknown causes. The disease is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system mistakes body tissues for foreign material and starts attacking them. In this case, the immune system attacks hair follicles. There is no treatment for the disease, but some patients do benefit from drugs that are approved for other uses, according to Office of Rare Disease Research.

The patient was diagnosed with alopecia universalis as well as plaque psoriasis, which causes scaly red areas in the skin.

King used tofacitinib citrate to treat both the conditions simultaneously. The FDA-approved drug was already known to treat psoriasis in humans. Other research had found the drug to be effective in treating alopecia areata, a less severe form of alopecia in mice.

"There are no good options for long-term treatment of alopecia universalis," said King in a news release. "The best available science suggested this might work, and it has."

The man was given 10 mg of tofacitinib for two months, which led to an improvement in psoriasis. He also had scalp and facial hair. Researchers increased the dose to 15 mg a day for the next three months. The man benefited from this treatment and had a full head of hair along with 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."

According to King, the drug might be helping hair regrowth by switching off the immune system attack. King has now proposed a clinical trial that will look into the efficacy of a cream form of tofacitinib to treat alopecia areata.

A research by Columbia University scientist Angela Christiano helped King decide the course of treatment for the 25-year-old man. Christiano had demonstrated that tofacitinib and a similar medication reverses alopecia areata in mice.

The study is published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Note that the drug was used under a controlled setting, Please don't use any drug without medical supervision. 

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