Dr. Kevin McElwee will be pursuing a unique line of Alopecia Areata genetic study.
Alopecia areata (AA) is a common disfiguring autoimmune disease which results in distressing and extensive hair hair loss in men, women, and children. Approximately 640,000 Canadians will experience AA – a ratio of 1 in 50 – which makes it a statistically significant disease to understand. Treatment options for AA are limited and there is no cure.
Dr. McElwee’s long-term goal is to determine the contribution of genes to the development of AA. The Michael Smith Foundation award will sponsor his study to test the hypothesis that AA is due to a genetic susceptibility towards disease development. The first step in proving this is to identify genes associated with AA in a rat model, and then define the specific genes involved and what the genes do.
Already Dr. McElwee’s team has identified several candidate regions on chromosomes where genes coding for susceptibility to AA are present by using controlled breeding strategies and screening across the entire genome.
Using a system called single nucleotide polymorphism the team will determine whether there are significant changes in the identified genes associated with rat AA, and will look for differences in gene expression and gene products.
Once genes have been identified in the rat model, they will use the information derived from the model to define a large scale study of AA affected humans. The nature of these genes may help us to understand how AA develops and, in the long term, such genes may be the target of new and effective treatments for AA.
More information is available at the Michael Smith Foundation For Health Research