by Lowell A. Goldsmith, MD
Advances in understanding alopecia areata (AA) and developing new treatments will “take a village”. The inhabitants of the village, including patients with AA, met in Bethesda Maryland in November 2012. A synopsis of their deliberations and plans is available in the JID Symposium Proceedings of December 2013. The 79-page symposium encapsulates their diversity and their analytical and scientific approaches. In the contemporary electronic era, the proceedings of a symposium in the old-fashioned print format is still useful and powerful, exposing the reader to topics that might be glossed over with purposed electronic searching. Print also allows reflection and reiteration, which pixels tend to inhibit. This reflection is especially important in a complex disease like AA where genes count, the immune system counts, the neuroendocrine system probably plays a role, and where therapy is still elusive. In the village reside the best and brightest clinicians and investigators concerned with this disease. The pioneering work of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) in developing and supporting the Alopecia Areata Registry, Biobank and Clinical Trials Network (Registry) continues to yield valuable data and allowed rapid gene-wide mapping studies in this disease. (The Registry was developed and supported for 12 years by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), under award number HHSN268200682279C and is now managed and supported totally by NAAF.)
The village is now focusing on the task of developing approaches to performing critically planned, executed, and interpretable clinical trials as well as the rapid identification of new and safe drugs for treating patients with AA. Innovative animal models will aid these efforts. The village is helped in its efforts by industry, government, and private donations. There is the right mix people and questions, and when more answers are forthcoming there will be dancing and singing as the entire village celebrates with the patients, who are most keen on the outcomes of these studies.
Image credit: Cover Image from National Alopecia Areata Foundation Symposium Proceedings entitled “From Basepairs to Bedside: Innovations in the Immunology & Clinical Science of Alopecia Areata”.