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Did you know that there is a Children with Alopecia Day in the United States? It is held each year on April 14th. The idea for the special day came from the Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP) which aims to support kids suffering from all types of alopecia. This year’s annual day coincided with an announcement from Yale University of encouraging news on a treatment for adolescents with alopecia areata. It is news that will be of great interest to anyone touched by this devastating form of hair loss. Read on to find out more!

The Problem

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder. That’s when the body’s defence system attacks perfectly healthy cells. When this happens with hair follicle cells, it causes hair loss on the scalp and, in some cases, other parts of the body. It affects millions of people worldwide, and while there is no cure, there are various treatments available. These treatments range from topical medications such as corticosteroids, immunomodulators and minoxidil to systemic immunosuppressive agents such as methotrexate, cyclosporine and oral corticosteroids. However, these treatments may not be effective for everyone, and some may have adverse side effects. That is why the news from Yale University is so significant.

The announcement in April was the culmination of ten years of research by a group of academics led by an associate professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, Dr Brett King. In 2022, Dr King’s team was successful in getting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to licence baricitinib, a JAK inhibitor (a type of drug used in the battle against rheumatoid arthritis and haematological disorders), for use in the treatment of severe alopecia areata in adult sufferers. This year’s clinical trial showed that another JAK inhibitor, ritlecitinib, could be used safely and effectively in adolescents.

JAK inhibitors work by blocking a group of enzymes called Janus kinases. These enzymes are involved in the immune response, and blocking them can help reduce inflammation, which is thought to be one of the underlying causes of alopecia areata. By blocking JAK enzymes, ritlecitinib can stop the immune system from attacking hair follicles, thus promoting hair regrowth.

Ritlecitinib

In addition to its potential as a treatment for alopecia areata, ritlecitinib has also been trialled as a potential treatment for other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. If it is approved for these conditions, it could open up new avenues for the treatment of a wide range of chronic complaints that have been without an effective remedy for generations.

While ritlecitinib has shown great potential in trials to date, it’s unlikely to be a miracle cure for every kind of autoimmune disorder or every sufferer; not all treatments work for everyone. Nevertheless, it represents the best hope yet for an effective treatment of alopecia areata, so the findings of the Yale study shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.

The Study

The Yale study involved just over 700 participants, including upwards of 100 adolescents, in hospitals across 18 countries. All those taking part had lost at least 50% of their scalp hair as a result of alopecia areata.

Ritlecitinib was given to each participant over 24 weeks. By the end of that period, many of those had experienced full or almost full regrowth of hair on their scalp. Those who hadn’t, continued on the drug for a further period of 24 weeks, with the result that more participants also enjoyed significant regrowth. No noticeable side effects of the drug were observed.

One of the benefits of ritlecitinib is that it can be administered orally, which is a more convenient and less invasive method than other treatments. It has also proven its efficacy in patients who have not responded to other treatments. While the Yale study picked up no noticeable side effects of the drug, other studies have reported some reactions in patients, including headache, upper respiratory tract infection and gastrointestinal symptoms.

The Yale study offers great hope for the future, but more clinical trials are needed before ritlecitinib is approved for the treatment of alopecia areata. Only at that point will it become the game-changer that everyone hopes it might be.

Conclusion

Ritlecitinib is a new treatment that shows promise for the treatment of alopecia areata and other autoimmune conditions. Clinical studies have shown that it can be effective in promoting hair regrowth in patients with this form of hair loss. While it’s not yet approved by the FDA, it’s currently undergoing clinical trials and could be life-changing for those who suffer from this condition.

If you have concerns about alopecia areata or any other aspect of your hair, don’t waste time and energy fretting – do something about it instead! At Vinci Hair Clinic, we have hair experts who can help you. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to our first-time clients. This can take place in person at one of our many clinics around the world, or over the phone using photographs. Contact us and book an appointment today!