YALE – A certain Arthritis drug helped a 25-year old man regrow hair after a rare disease left him completely hairless. The man suffers from alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disease that causes complete hair loss. There is no known cure for it, but Yale researchers found a way to allow the man to successfully grow his hair back, including eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, and body hair.

“The results are exactly what we hoped for,” Dr. Brett A. King, assistant professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine and senior author of a paper outlining the results, said in a statement. “This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition. While it’s one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this man based on our current understanding of the disease and the drug. We believe the same results will be duplicated in other patients, and we plan to try.”

Not only did the 25-year old patient have alopecia, but he also suffered from plaque psoriasis. That is a condition where areas of skin become red and scaly. The patient had it on his head, with limited amounts of hair growing in between the infected skin.

The patient went to Yale Dermatology to be treated for his psoriasis, but when he got there, King realized he could treat both that and the man’s alopecia. King decided to use a drug that is normally used for rheumatoid arthritis, called tofacitinib citrate. It had previously had some luck with curing alopecia in lab mice, and King believed that it could do the same for people.

“There are no good options for long-term treatment of alopecia universalis,” King said. “The best available science suggested this might work, and it has.”

The patient began taking the 10mg of the medicine a day, and after two months he began noticeably regrowing his hair. And after three more months of taking 15mg of the arthritis medicine a day, he had a nice head of hair and began regrowing his eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, armpit and other hair.

“By eight months there was full regrowth of hair,” study coauthor Dr. Brittany G. Craiglow, said in a statement. “The patient has reported feeling no side effects, and we’ve seen no lab test abnormalities, either.”

Apparently, tofacitinib citrate shuts off the immune system attack on hair follicles which was prompted by the disease. This, in turn, allows hair to grow back like normal, explained King.

King also recently submitted a proposal for a clinic trial that would involve using the arthritis medicine in cream form. This could be used to treat patients will lesser forms of alopecia.

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