Hair loss is a challenging condition. Outwardly visible and hard to cover up, it can quickly affect confidence and self esteem. One of the biggest challenges is that although some causes of hair loss are treatable, there are many other types that are much harder to control, and for which there is no known cure.
Understanding alopecia areata
One of the most common types of hair loss is "alopecia areata
". This is an auto immune condition, which means that it results from a malfunction in the body's immune system and can affect men or women. The role of the immune system is to defend against infections, and in the case of alopecia areata, the body mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, believing them to be causing harm to the body. The result is the hair follicles shrink and the hair falls out, often in patches, but in severe cases this can be all over the head. This type of hair loss is usually temporary, although until now, scientists have struggled to pin-point effective ways to try and reverse the patchwork infliction of this particular condition.
In severe cases, alopecia areata can progress from patches to total baldness (known as alopecia totalis) and even loss of hair from all areas of the body (known as alopecia universalis). With this in mind, scientists have been working tirelessly to try and understand more about this condition and ultimately to try and find an effective cure.
Good news on the horizon
Researchers have been studying alopecia areata
for many years, and they believe they may have had a breakthrough. An FDA-approved drug named "Secukinumab" (branded "Cosentxy" for the shelves) will be entered into a second phases of clinical trials in November 2015, with a view to testing its effectiveness against a different auto immune condition, rheumatoid arthritis. If it is successful, experts believe it may also be effective in treating alopecia areata.
Funding is in place for these trials, the first of which has already been completed. Qualifying criteria for trial participants is that they must be over the age of 18, and can be either men or women, who are generally in good overall health. They must have had at least 60% of the hair on their head affected by alopecia areata in the six months preceding the start of the trial. The 28-week trial will comprise of regular checkups and testing during a 20-week course of injections. 30 people have been recruited for this trial and these brave individuals are at the forefront of medical science.
Will there be a third phase?
If the results of this second trial look promising then this will be rolled out to a wider trial audience. This more extensive testing phase could take years to complete, but scientists and researchers will need to be convinced of the effectiveness, and have explored any possible side effects, before this is opened up to the mass market. Medical advances take time to develop due to the rigorous testing and complexity of the data that must be analysed before a product is brought to market. The presence of these clinical trials is a positive step forward in the hair loss arena, and one that will hopefully yield a much greater understanding of this challenging condition.