Dr. Kevin McElwee Will Be Pursuing a Unique Line of Alopecia Areata Genetic Study

by Staff Writer

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

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Jacqueline Conte November 18, 2007 at 7:46 pm

29 Oct 2007

My 7 year old daughter, Andrea, started loosing hair in March 07, I noticed it one day as I was brushing her very abundant hair for ballet class. In the following weeks, her hair began falling at an alarming speed, so I took her to a dermatologist who told me that she had AA and general Telogen effluvium. This dermatologist had blood test done, including thyroid, and iron defficiencies. Everything except her ferritin level came back fine. The ferretin came back low, even though she has a very iron rich diet. After these blood results came back, the dermatologist sent me to her pediatrician for iron supplements and sent her Protopic ointment, the pediatrician told me not to put on the Protopic and instead use Betnovate (cortisone-based) lotion. By May, seeing that the small dime size spot was now the size of my adult palm, I desperately went to another dermatologist.

This dermatologist, began treatment immediately, wanting to see her every 15 days, and at which time he would spray her with Liquid Nitrogen on her scalp, sent Valcatil twice a day (vitamins for the hair), and Minoxidil 2% at nights, and maintained the Betnovate Lotion in the morning. By June, he added phototerapy (UV lights) 3 times a wk. By Aug, she started growing hair in some parts, and seemed to be coming along well, to the point that the dermatologist cut down the treatment to : Phototherapy 2 times a wk, Minoxidil 2% every evening, Valcatil twice a day, and the nitrogen liquid sprayed every 20 days. She has had sporadic itching but seems to be doing better from that.

My concern is this: three days ago, she started complaining of stinging in the back of her head and then when I softly touched to see where the pain was, she said it hurt…the stinging stopped in a minute but it still hurt her in that particular spot. This has happened 5 more times and I am concerned that the minoxidil could be causing this…since so many topical ointments/lotions, not to mention the weekly phototherapy, have been put on her scalp in the past 5 months. As of three days ago, when the stinging started, I stopped the minoxidil. My pulmonologist, during a appointment this past week, asked me to find out on the internet if minoxidil 2% could be used on children and if so, for how long or if there were asystematic/systematic side effects in such prolonged use. This is all in the back of my mind as this stinging episode started 3 days ago, so please if you could shed some light I would appreciate it very much.


Jacqueline Conte

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