For over a decade, Columbia University geneticist Angela Christiano, PhD, has attended the annual meeting of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, where hundreds of individuals affected by the hair loss disorder gather to support one another and learn about the latest scientific research. The meeting is a safe space where patients with alopecia, many of whom have lost all their hair, joyfully remove their wigs and head coverings for the three-day celebration, without fear of shame or judgment. But this year’s meeting was a bit different. Dr. Christiano had trouble recognizing conference attendees she’s known and worked with for years, because many of them now have full heads of hair. For people with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss so complete that people even lose their eyebrows, the change in appearance was dramatic.
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