Breakthrough approach in treating alopecia

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A man with almost no hair on his body now has a full head of hair, all thanks to a breakthrough approach by a doctor at Yale School Of Medicine.

Kyle Holland has two medical issues; a severe case of a skin condition and one that causes hair loss. That presented an opportunity for Dr. Brett King, assistant professor of dermatology, to follow through with a drug he believed could treat both.

For most of his life, Holland has dealt with autoimmune diseases. He has alopecia universalis, total hair loss, and plaque psoriasis, a severe skin condition.

“The psoriasis is a lot different,” said Holland. “I’d say I’m more shy about that than being bald.”

Now the 25-year-old has a head of hair, with his psoriasis somewhat diminishing. “Now it’s like a few spots all around but it’s not as bad as it used to be.”

Things changed dramatically after he sought treatment with Dr. King.

“I’m incredibly optimistic that this is a huge breakthrough,” said Dr. King. “I was aware of some science that had suggested that this medicine might be able to be brought to bear on people suffering from autoimmune types of hair loss. And there’s also data showing that this medicine is also useful for treatment in psoriasis.”

He prescribed tofacitinib citrate, a drug approved for rheumatoid arthritis.

“With Kyle, we had an opportunity to possibly use one medicine to both re-grow his hair,” said Dr. King, “which had never been done before in a human, and also to treat his psoriasis.”

“Three months, I have eyebrows and eyelashes and shaving again,” said Holland.

But treating his psoriasis has been more challenging. Dr. King stressed, “there’s no medicine for the treatment of psoriasis that works in 100 percent of people, and this may be a medicine that is not amazing for Kyle.”

Meantime, Holland is taking everything in stride. “With autoimmune conditions, you never know something could work and then all of a sudden not,” he said.

For the tens of thousands with alopecia, Dr. King said, “this is a tremendous leap forward in our understanding of this disease, and this is the first time these folks have hope for treatment.”

Hope, which Dr. King attributes to years of medical research, made possible by crucial funding. “This finding by Kyle was not by luck. It was intentional, it was deliberate. It was based on science,” said King.

For Holland, the locks of hair have a down side. “I kinda liked not having to get haircuts and the expenses of razors,” he said laughing.

Dr. King has begun a clinical trial to determine the parameters of the drug for alopecia, “This trial will begin to answer that  question, do you need treatment sometimes? Do you need treatment everyday? How much treatment do you need?” Already, he has received over three thousand e-mails from all over the world.

For more information, you can e-mail Dr. King at alopecia@yale.edu.

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