JAK inhibitor regrows hair in alopecia patients

Aug 19, 2014, 4:00am

The JAK inhibitor ruxolitinib has been shown to regrow hair in patients with alopecia areata, results of a small study suggest.

The JAK inhibitor ruxolitinib has been shown to regrow hair in patients with alopecia areata, results of a small study suggest.

Researchers with Columbia University Medical Center, New York, identified a specific set of T cells that attack hair follicles in patients with alopecia areata, and used mouse and human cells to distinguish how T cells are instructed to carry out this attack, according to a news release. They found key immune pathways that JAK inhibitors could target.

Ruxolitinib restored within 12 weeks the hair in mice that had extensive hair loss from alopecia areata, investigators found. Tofacitinib had the same effect on the mice. The hair remained for several months after treatment was completed. Noting those findings, researchers launched a small, open-label clinical trial of ruxolitinib - which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of myelofibrosis, a bone marrow cancer - in a small number of patients with moderate-to-severe alopecia areata. Three patients demonstrated complete hair regrowth within four to five months of the initiation of treatment; the attacking T cells disappeared from the scalps of these patients.

“We still need to do more testing to establish that ruxolitinib should be used in alopecia areata, but this is exciting news for patients,” Raphael Clynes, M.D., Ph.D., a cellular immunologist at Columbia University Medical Center and head of the research team, said in the news release.

The findings were published online Aug. 17 in a letter in Nature Medicine.

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