New Treatment Could Reverse Hair Loss Caused by an Autoimmune Skin Disease (Alopecia Areata)

A microneedle patch that delivers immune-regulating molecules can teach T cells not to attack hair follicles, helping hair to regrow.

Researchers at MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School have developed a potential new treatment for alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss and affects people of all ages, including children. For most patients with this type of hair loss, there is no effective treatment. The team developed a microneedle patch that can be painlessly applied to the scalp and releases drugs that help to rebalance the immune response at the site, halting the autoimmune attack. In a study of mice, the researchers found that this treatment allowed hair to regrow and dramatically reduced inflammation at the treatment site, while avoiding systemic immune effects elsewhere in the body. This strategy could also be adapted to treat other autoimmune skin diseases such as vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis, the researchers say.

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