Two of the UK's leading hair loss charities which focus on autoimmune alopecia have announced that an agreement has been reached for them to merge.
Alopecia UK and AAR-UK (Autoimmune Alopecia Research UK) have been in talks since May 2017 and, with legal agreements now having been drawn up, hope to finalise the merger in November.
Both charities are dedicated to supporting those with the various types of autoimmune alopecia which can affect men, women and children of all ages.
These autoimmune disorders can range from mild Alopecia Areata, causing patchy hair loss of the scalp only, to severe, causing baldness of the whole head (Alopecia Totalis) or total hair fall from the entire body (Alopecia Universalis). There are also other phenotypes which affect the beard area or, in rare cases, cause a thick bald band to develop around the entire hairline. Collectively, all these forms of of autoimmune hair loss are often referred to simply as 'Alopecia' or 'Alopecia Areata'.
Hair fall from each of these conditions tends to be sudden, as it occurs when a number of hair follicles are 'shocked' into prematurely shutting down the hair growth cycle. They remain dormant in the Telogen (resting) phase and when or even if this will end and normal hair growth will resume is unable to be predicted.
Whilst Alopecia Areata treatment for the mildest form can be effective in many cases, this is only suitable for people aged 16 years and over. Currently there are no truly reliable Alopecia Totalis and Universalis treatments though researchers are working hard to remedy this.
Over the past few years there has been a rush of developments in the area of JAK inhibition drugs in relation to hair regrowth for people with even the most extreme forms of alopecia. Although still in the clinical trail phase, it is estimated that the first JAK inhibitor treatments for severe autoimmune hair loss could be available by 2021. Based on recent US patent acquisitions it appears these medications are likely to be both oral and topical.
Whilst the hair may regrow naturally, alopecia areata may also recur. The highly visible nature of the conditions and their sudden onset can be extremely upsetting and shocking to those involved, which is where the work of hair loss charities comes in.
was founded in 20014 and is the leading local organisation involved in providing support to people of all ages who have lost their hair to forms of autoimmune alopecia. It offers various online and offline peer support groups, in addition to running an annual weekend get-together and helping to continually promote general alopecia awareness.
AAR-UK is a newer charity, registered in 2012, which focuses on research into alopecia areata. This is a vital area as, despite it being the second most common cause of hairloss worldwide - behind male and female pattern baldness - little is known about the complex pathology of alopecia. It has helped to establish the first dedicated bio-bank in the UK to help researchers to determine what causes alopecia areata as only some of its triggers, not the actual cause(s) is known at present. These triggers include sudden shock, trauma, allergies and a genetic factor is also suspected.
Both charities fundraise to support their efforts so merging should lead to a doubly strong force when it comes to dealing with existing hair loss, and hoping to prevent it - or at least better understand it - in future. The merger has been agreed with AAR-UK being dissolved as a separate charity and absorbed into Alopecia UK (AUK), which will be rebranding. This is currently awaiting approval from the Scottish Charity Regulator.
“We are so pleased that this amicable merger looks to be reaching a conclusion. Anyone attending the AUK Big Weekend in the last four years would be aware of the charity’s clear dedication, knowledge, and commitment to research alongside our other stated goals of awareness and support. By combining research knowledge, considerable contacts and funding, we really feel that we can accelerate the progress being made in this area,” said AUK's Chair of Trustees, Simon Ray.
Hugh Gallagher, Chair of Trustees for AAR-UK added, “From my first meeting with AUK it was clear that their commitment to research was as strong as ours. I also feel, alongside my other Trustees, that the combination of AAR-UK and AUK will lead to greater funding being given to research and this money being focused in a more co-ordinated way. I believe we have some exciting times ahead of us.”
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