Israeli Team Identify Hair Loss Gene In Women Of Color

A team of international researchers has identified a faulty gene that might open the door for a genetic treatment for women of color suffering from a common form of hair loss.



According to WebMD, centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) is a condition that causes inflammation and destruction of hair follicles that results in scarring and permanent hair loss. The symptoms are similar to those seen when women present with hair loss due to traction alopecia… that form of hair loss attributed to styling with braids or other, often chemical, treatments that see the hair pulled tight or the color changed. Like CCCA, traction alopecia can result in redness that can become bumps, or even scaling and blisters that, in some cases, leave the sufferer with permanent hair loss.

Remarkable Research

Professor Eli Sprecher is Head of Dermatology at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. For the last seven years, he has led a team of international researchers looking into the causes of CCCA… long thought to be triggered by those hairstyles and chemical treatments.

The remarkable publishing of his report, in the New England Journal of Medicine, saw Professor Sprecher announce that his team had identified a malfunctioning protein, PAD13, that actually causes CCCA. He acknowledged that what dermatologists might have been looking at all these years, when misplacing the cause to styling and treatment, could have been a predisposition for women with the faulty gene to suffer.

Good Hair

Chris Rock, the American comedian, explored the culture around hair for women of color in a film, Good Hair, inspired by his young daughters’ simple question “why can’t I have good hair?”. His film highlighted the size of the problem that is hair loss among African American women. Some of the men in his film spoke about there being an unwritten dating rule that it is forbidden to touch a woman’s hair without express permission, highlighting the extent of the issue and the fragility of the weaves and wigs used to hide it.

Hair Loss For Women

Five years ago the Huffington Post reported that the market for black hair might be worth up to $500M. So it is important to recognize both the size of the problem and the massive latent demand for a genetic cure. Though of course, that cure is still some way off at this stage we will continue to monitor and report on their progress. You can see Professor Sprecher’s publication in the New England Journal of Medicine by clicking here.

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