shutterstock_304822175New research may change the way alopecia areata is treated.

The study, which appears online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, comprises the largest cohort of alopecia areata patients to date. Researchers compared patients’ scalp samples to skin samples from patients with two other immune-mediated skin diseases—psoriasis and atopic dermatitis—as well as to normal scalp tissues. They found that similar to these diseases, alopecia areata shows significant increases of inflammatory cytokines. With new classes of drugs (eg, IL-17 inhibiting antibodies) bringing about dramatic improvements in psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and other autoimmune diseases, the moment may have arrived for dramatic application of similar treatment mechanisms to alopecia areata, they write.

“This discovery will change the landscape of alopecia areata. Understanding the molecular signature gives us new targets, and potentially new targeted therapies, for our so-hard-to-treat alopecia areata patients,” says Emma Guttman-Yassky, MD, PhD, associate professor of Dermatology and Immunology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and lead study author, in a news release.

“We could make history in this disease. We’re on course for developing drugs that actually regrow hair.”