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Hair growth achieved after complete hair loss
Many people suffer from hair loss over the course of their lives, which often leads to impaired self-esteem and psychological problems. This is especially true for women who suffer from hair loss. Some are affected at a young age. However, a drug approved for the treatment of eczema was able to let the hair of a person affected grow again - even though it had been completely bald for years.
In the specialist magazine "JAMA Dermatology", doctors currently report on the case of a 13-year-old patient who had alopecia totalis (complete hair loss) and who had achieved new hair growth with the drug dupilumab. For the first time, with the help of the drug, which is actually approved for the treatment of eczema, it was possible to achieve full hair growth again in alopecia totalis, write the researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School.
The patient became bald at the age of two
According to the doctors, the patient had lost all of her hair at the age of two. In addition to alopecia totalis, eczema had also occurred on the scalp, which prompted the doctors to treat them with dupilumab. Dupilumab is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of moderate to severe eczema (including atopic dermatitis). The patient developed significant hair growth during treatment with duplilumab.
Treatment with dupilumab injections
The patient has suffered from extensive, treatment-resistant eczema since the age of seven, the researchers report. Treatment with medications such as prednisone and methotrexate, which can suppress the overactive immune system, had led to a limited improvement in eczema, but did not achieve hair regrowth and was finally stopped. As of July 2017, the patient was treated weekly with injections of dupilumab, which had been approved by the FDA shortly before.
New hair growth achieved
After six weeks of dupilumab treatment, not only was there a significant improvement in eczema symptoms, but the doctors also noticed that fine, light-colored hair, the vellus hair, was growing on the scalp. After seven months, the patient had a significant amount of the pigmented hair that typically grows on the scalp. Due to a change in her insurance coverage, the patient had to stop dupilumab for two months, during which time she noticed that the recently regrown hair disappeared. But after she resumed treatment in April 2018, hair growth increased again and continued.
"We were quite surprised because this patient had had no hair on her head since she was two years old and other treatments that could help with hair loss were unsuccessful in her case," says study leader Maryanne Makredes Senna, dermatologist at MGH. "As far as we know, this is the first report on hair growth with dupilumab in a patient with alopecia areata," the expert continues.
Further studies are already planned
Senna sees a possible explanation for the effect in that dupilumab targets a key pathway of the immune system that is known to be overactive in eczema. Recent studies have shown that other elements of the same pathway can induce autoimmune hair loss. At the moment, it is still difficult to say "whether dupilumab could trigger hair growth in other alopecia patients, but I suspect that it could be helpful for patients with extensive active eczema and active alopecia areata," said the study leader. Further studies on the effects of dupilumab treatment in this patient group are already planned. (fp)