A revolution has happened in hair loss research over the last decade with the work of one woman at its heart. Dr. Angela Christiano is that woman. We take a closer look at our favourite hair loss heroine and her remarkable story.
Dr. Angela Christiano – Hair Loss Heroine
In 1995, she was working as a geneticist studying skin diseases at Columbia University. She would probably still be studying skin diseases, and no doubt making her mark, if it had not been for a trip to the hairdresser that year. Her stylist told her that she had a small bald patch at the back of her head. It came as a terrible shock to this Jersey girl, who took great pride in her wonderful locks. It would be the moment when she set out on the path to becoming our hair loss heroine.
She was diagnosed with a type of alopecia. Regular readers will know this to be an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles. Usually affecting the scalp the condition can affect all hair on the body in extreme cases.
A New Direction
Dr. Christiano made the momentous decision to switch the focus of her work. On discovering that the only treatment available involved steroid injections she decided to study alopecia. Something she describes as ‘a short leap’ from her work on skin diseases.
In hindsight, it was a sliding doors moment from which the whole hair loss community would benefit.
Focussing her work on Alopecia Areata (AA), the condition she herself suffered from, would turn out to be anything but easy. To start with, simply applying for grants would prove a challenge. She became used to getting turned down for funds on the grounds that the problem was cosmetic. Knowing it to be linked to physical and psychological effects including suicide, Christiano persevered.
Hair Loss Hope
In 2010, Dr. Christiano and her team made a monumental discovery. One that was so fundamental it has implications beyond hair loss. They identified a group of genes that create immune cells that destroy unwanted invaders to the follicle.
Four years later, with colleague Raphael Clynes, she published a follow-up paper. This time they described details of another discovery, every bit as remarkable as the first. They had identified a class of drugs, Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitors, as effective against AA.
Today, JAK inhibitors are the basis of several drugs being developed by some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Pfizer is already at Phase III testing on 700 patients worldwide. If successful, the last step is to apply to the FDA for approval to take it to market.
Hair Loss For Women
Dr. Christiano fits the bill as our hair loss heroine. That sliding doors moment in the hairdressers may yet turn out to be one we are all grateful for. The prospect of an FDA approved drug, based on her discoveries, is truly exciting. We don’t suppose a Nobel prize will ever be awarded for hair loss research, but if it is then Christiano should be at the front of the queue.
She has also been responsible for some exciting work on men’s hair loss. In 1998, she discovered a gene for hair loss. With British biologist Colin Jahoda, she developed a technique for removing hair follicle stem cells and culturing them in a lab. With the promise of limitless grafts.
Beyond alopecia, Christiano’s work has been the basis for other research that might change the treatment for melanoma. Using the same killer immune cells and targetting the malignancy with them.
Her work has been revolutionary and there is surely plenty more to come. We will be watching closely, as we have done for years.
Of course, here at Hair Loss For Women, we have our very own hair loss heroine. We would like to offer you the opportunity to discuss your hair loss situation with a friendly, globally recognized, expert. Ranbir is a qualified trichologist and a full member of The Institute of Trichologists. A committed hair professional, Ranbir has years of experience and a well-earned reputation for thought-leadership and innovation in the industry. Discuss your hair loss situation with an expert, sympathetic and experienced ear. Use the contact form to get in touch.
You can read more about Ranbir here.