A new paper co-authored by scientists in the USA and China has been looking at a number of studies into autoimmune disorders to try and understand why a variety of these diseases, some of which lead to hair loss
Experts at the Third Affiliated Hospital at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, and the Memphis VA Medical Centre in Tennessee, wanted to explore research from around the world pertaining to something known as regulatory T-cells (Tregs
), which the medical community is fast coming to realise play a key role in autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.
Varying levels of hair loss
Three such conditions can lead to hair loss varying from mild to extreme, and headway has already been made over the past few years into research about the role Tregs play in them. The least severe of the three is alopecia areata
, which will affect roughly 2-3 percent of all people in their lifetime and which typically manifests itself as sudden bald patches on the scalp.
Fortunately, treatment for alopecia areata
already exists, and Belgravia's hair loss experts have found that topically-applied high-strength minoxidil
from the available formulations at the clinics' in-house pharmacies can be can be effective
at treating scalp-only phenotypes.
However, when people are diagnosed with either of two related conditions named alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis
, they are dismayed to hear that their treatment options are significantly reduced. These two diseases cause total baldness on the head, with the latter adding the loss of body hair as well. Given the large number of trials
that are currently taking place around the world which are looking quite specifically at completely new potential treatments for the two disorders, it does seem possible that new choices may be available soon.
The review from the USA and China argues that some of the most important new treatments for autoimmune disorders may come from research pertaining to Tregs, and explains how these cells play a crucial role in maintaining immune homeostasis.
Suppression of unwanted immune responses
Much is made in the paper of the importance of a protein named IL-2
, which has been shown in studies to induce immune tolerance when exposed to patients in low doses. In doing so, the scientists note, Treg development is promoted and the net result is the suppression of unwanted immune responses. This, they say, paves the way for potential new treatments for certain autoimmune disorders.
The paper, published on nature.com, makes for fascinating reading for anybody with a sufficient grasp of medicine to decipher its complexities, but even a quick look at the conclusions are enough to arouse interest: "Independent clinical trials have shown the safety of low-dose IL-2 treated in multiple autoimmune diseases," the authors write. "Moreover, these trials have provided preliminary indications of significant biological and clinical efficacy."
The researchers do caution, however, that these new therapeutic approaches currently present some undesirable side-effects, though potential ways of preventing these are offered by the team. In summary, they propose that additional well-controlled clinical trials are needed to validate improved and safer dosing strategies for low-dose IL-2 use on autoimmune disorders.