"Many parents understandably panic when they see their child losing their hair," says Dr. Jerry Shapiro, an expert on alopecia and the director of the University of British Columbia Hair Clinic at the Vancouver Hospital. "But young kids tend to cope much better with their condition than their parents so I warn parents against putting wigs or hair pieces on their child simply to make themselves feel better."
Though there is no effective cure for alopecia areata, researchers from Columbia University appear to have discovered the genetic cause of the disease.
A team of researchers have linked alopecia to eight genes. They studied the genome analysis of 1,054 people with alopecia areata and 3278 people without the disorderand and found eight genes associated with alopecia were the same as other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
This is one of the first studies to locate genes potentially linked to alopecia areata and the discovery may soon lead to new alopecia treatments, says Dr. Angela M. Christiano, the lead researcher of the study and a hair geneticist at Columbia University Medical Center.
"This means that drugs already in development for other autoimmune diseases could also be used for hair loss," Dr. Christiano says. "It's a big step forward because now we have a much better understanding of what causes the disease."
"This research is very exciting, as alopecia areata affects a huge number of people worldwide," says Vicki Kalabokes, president and CEO of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, which funded the study. "There are very few treatments for alopecia resulting in an enormous unmet medical need."