Faculty Research 1990 - 1999

Alopecia areata: an autoimmune disease?

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Animal, Autoantibodies, Autoantigens, Autoimmune-Diseases, Disease-Models-Animal, Hair-Follicle, Human, IgG, Lymphocytes, Mice, Mice-SCID, Models-Biological, SUPPORT-NON-U-S-GOVT, SUPPORT-U-S-GOVT-NON-P-H-S, SUPPORT-U-S-GOVT-P-H-S

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Exp Dermatol 1999 Oct; 8(5):371-9.


AR43801/AR/NIAMS, CA34196/CA/NCI


A wide range of hypotheses such as focal infection, trophoneuroses, and endocrine dysfunction, have been previously proposed to explain the pathogenesis of alopecia areata (AA). Currently, the most widely held belief is that AA is an autoimmune disease with cellular and/or humoral immunity directed against anagen hair follicle antigen(s). However, until recently evidence in support of an autoimmune mechanism of AA has been largely circumstantial. More fundamental evidence has recently been amassed in support of AA as an autoimmune disease by using animal models. These data include: 1) identification of cross-species hair follicle specific IgG autoantibodies, 2) The ability to induce AA in an animal model with transfer of skin from affected to naive individuals, and 3) the induction of disease by transfer of lymphocytes to human skin grafted to severe combined immunodeficiency mutant mice. A review of the previous and current data related to the autoimmune basis of AA is provided to put into perspective the future studies needed to definitively determine whether AA is an autoimmune disease.

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