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Alopecia Areata Treatment Development Program Moving Swiftly

NAAF’s Treatment Development Program (TDP) is on track with the timeline initiated in 2010 to accelerate our quest for a viable treatment. NAAF is serving as the ultimate concierge, leveraging all of our available research resources and clinical partnerships. Our strategic goal is to produce safe, effective, affordable treatments useful to millions of people with alopecia areata. Read more about the current activities of the TDP>>>

Video: An Overview of NAAF's Treatment Development Program 

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation's (NAAF) Treatment Development Program video is a high-energy, 7-minute presentation of the stories, reflections and personal accounts of both lay people and experts who understand and care about alopecia areata, the world's most common autoimmune disease. Alopecia areata results in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body, and this video illustrates why NAAF's Treatment Development Program is so vital. The video highlights the National Alopecia Areata Foundation's primary goal: finding effective, FDA-approved treatments that restore hair growth for people affected by alopecia areata. 

After you see the video please tell us what you think by taking this short survey.

History of the Treatment Development Program

TDP logoFor nearly 30 years, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation has represented the interests of patients and families affected by alopecia areata in all of its forms. We have done many things to develop the capabilities and influence of our organization while simultaneously providing needed information and support to our thousands of members. Since our inception, however, one goal has remained out of reach, until now: finding effective treatments that restore hair growth for people affected by alopecia areata.

While our capabilities and influence have grown stronger across the board, this past year produced an unprecedented advancement in our potential to find new and more effective treatments through our new Treatment Development Program.  NAAF’s ability to move in this exciting direction is the result of our past commitment to sound and responsible research. The advances witnessed in 2010 could not have occurred without the following prior actions and investments:

• Creation of the world’s leading scientific panel on alopecia areata, NAAF’s Scientific Advisory Council.
• Investments in scientists who go on to dedicate their research careers to discovering the causes of and potential treatments for alopecia areata.
• Development of a partnership with the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) to create the National Alopecia Areata Registry, a resource proving fundamental to autoimmune and genetic research.
• Consecutive research summits in 2008 and 2009 that identified alopecia areata as an autoimmune disease.

The research summits provided NAAF with a means to obtain fresh perspectives from various specialties and attract new groups of researchers to aid in uncovering the mechanism behind alopecia areata. The second of these two summits recruited some internationally recognized immunologists to apply established research methods to discover the specific mechanisms that trigger the destruction of hair follicles among people with alopecia areata. It also resulted in a multiyear plan to implement this immunology research and generate the basis for developing new treatments. We are already funding this plan, which is being implemented in Colorado and Tel Aviv, and we are using samples from the National Alopecia Areata Registry. This basic immunology research should produce the results we want over the long term.

Lynn at ColumbiaThis line of research also opens the door to the possibility that an existing treatment for other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions, might prove effective as an alopecia areata treatment. And this could be a faster route to our goal of having effective treatments. Presently, there are 238 pharmacological treatments for autoimmune diseases that are on a development continuum from the early stages of testing to full approval for human use by the Food & Drug Administration (about 10% fall in the latter category and are already on the market).


Lynn Petukhova of Columbia University and a research staff
assistant to Dr. Angela Christiano explains the National Alopecia
Areata Registry samples in her lab and on her computer.


To fast-track identification of an existing treatment that may work for alopecia areata, NAAF established a special alopecia areata clinical research task force to screen leading candidates from this sizeable list. We hired a research consultant to generate more information about each type of treatment, and then at the end of October we held an all-day meeting of task force members, NAAF Scientific Advisory Council members, other researchers and NAAF board members to develop criteria and guide the selection of leading treatment candidates.

Of course, our efforts to identify effective treatments are not limited to this group of autoimmune treatments. For example, we are working with several labs to study a unique laser treatment device.

Another aspect of our Treatment Development Program involves reaching out to companies that own patents to or manufacture these treatments. We plan to hold a briefing meeting with many of these companies, invite them to collaborate on testing their treatments in alopecia areata patients.

Our two-pronged research efforts—undertaking basic immunology research and testing existing treatments—would be a relatively unguided were it not for key research breakthroughs reported in 2010. Years back NAAF provided Dr. Angela Christiano of Columbia University with her first research grant, and she has now discovered the genetic basis of alopecia areata. Dr. Christiano and her team have found eight genes that clearly contribute to alopecia areata, including one gene that plays a possible role in the onset of the disease. This was reported in the July 1, 2010, issue of the internationally ranked scientific journal Nature, as well as on the NAAF website, in NAAF Newsletters and E Newsletters and via a webinar. Dr. Christiano, a NAAF Scientific Advisory Council member, also presented her findings at NAAF’s annual international patient conference in Indianapolis in late June.

With Dr. Christiano’s findings, our ongoing research efforts can be more targeted. We might even be able to generate a test that validates the presence of alopecia areata at a genetic level and helps to better target and validate treatments. Clinical research will be improved if we can validate the makeup of subjects and create a biochemical marker for success.

At this point, we are moving forward with all aspects of our program. We are funding both the basic science and clinical aspects of treatment development, and we are also reaching out to organizations ranging from the National Institutes of Health and professional societies to potential allies in genetically-related autoimmune fields like diabetes and the many corporations that may collaborate on treatment development.

The goal of the Treatment Development Program is to produce a treatment that restores hair growth. We can achieve this in a short amount of time if we can find an existing treatment that is already on the market, proven safe for patients, and, most importantly, effective for alopecia areata. Our overall timeframe to screen compounds is three to seven years.

Our other immunology approach will build on the recent discovery of the cause of alopecia areata and will developing what will likely be a unique treatment. This approach will undoubtedly take longer, but the answers it will provides make it immensely important long-term.

These two approaches each require millions of dollars of investment. As always, NAAF is dedicated to obtaining the maximum from outside resources—leveraging government, partner and corporate dollars—and we will continue our efforts to generate ever-broader support for our mission, cause and plan. But as in the past, the importance of your major gifts to our research investment efforts will be the most vital.

This is the most exciting time we have experienced in the history of NAAF. There is more focus to our research and therefore much more hope than ever before. What excites us most at this moment is knowing how much the development of an effective alopecia areata treatment will mean to people of all ages who have lost their hair.

Please contact the NAAF office or Dory Kranz to learn how you can be involved with this program.

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