Man With Hair-Loss Disease Gets New Growth Using Arthritis Drug
June 19, 2014

Man With Hair-Loss Disease Gets New Growth Using Arthritis Drug

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Doctors at Yale University administered treatment for a non curable disease (alopecia universalis) in a 25-year-old man that left him without any hair. After the treatment, the man grew a full head of hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpit, facial and other hair on various parts of his body.

His disease had not been previously treated and this was the first reported case with successful results.

“The results are exactly what we hoped for. 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,” said Brett A. King, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine and senior author of a paper reporting the results online June 18 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

The rare but highly visible disease features a loss of all body hair and plaque psoriasis, which is a condition leaving scaly red areas of the skin of the affected person. The man had been referred to Yale Dermatology for treatment of his psoriasis. Since the alopecia universalis had not been treated, King thought it might be possible to treat both conditions with an FDA-approved drug for rheumatoid arthritis called tofacitinib citrate. It had previously been used to treat psoriasis in humans, as well as a less extreme form of alopecia in mice.

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

The man took 10 mg of the drug daily for two months. His psoriasis showed improvement and for the first time in seven years, he had hair on his scalp. For three additional months, he took 15 mg daily, resulting in more scalp hair, had visible eyebrows, eyelashes and facial hair. He also grew armpit and other hair on different parts of his body.

“By eight months there was full regrowth of hair. The patient has reported feeling no side effects, and we've seen no lab test abnormalities, either,” co-author Brittany G. Craiglow, MD said.

The drug seems to turn off the immune system attack on hair follicles that is set off by the disease. It also helps in some cases of psoriasis, in which this case it did slightly.

King has submitted a proposal for further clinical studies using a cream form of the drug to treat alopecia areata, as less severe form of the condition.

What prompted King to try the drug to treat both conditions, was the work done by scientist Angela Christiano from Columbia University, who successfully reversed the alopecia areata condition in mice.

“This case highlights the interplay between advances in science and the treatment of disease and it provides a compelling example of the ways in which an increasingly complex understanding of medicine, combined with ingenuity in treatment, benefits patients,” King said, commending the work of Christiano’s science research can help improve human life.

Image 2 (below): These panels show the patient's head a) before treatment with tofacitinib, b) two months into treatment, c) five months into treatment, and d) eight months into treatment. Credit: Brett King/Yale University