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Registry Established for Alopecia Areata

A national registry for alopecia areata, a disease whose hallmark is unexplained hair loss, has been established by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. The new registry will be located at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, with affiliated centers at the University of Colorado, the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Minnesota and Columbia University.

Registry scientists will seek out and classify medical and family history data for patients with three major forms of alopecia areata: alopecia areata (patchy scalp hair loss); alopecia totalis (100 percent scalp hair loss); and alopecia universalis (100 percent scalp and 100 percent body hair loss). Families with multiple affected members will be especially helpful to further research studies. The project will offer a future central information source where researchers can obtain statistical data associated with the disease. A web site is currently being developed for the registry.

The registry will serve as a liaison between affected families and investigators interested in studying this disorder. Scientists hope the registry will be useful in locating the gene or genes associated with alopecia areata. It will also link patients with other researchers studying the cause or treatment of this disease.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, one in which the body's natural defense system attacks healthy cells. In alopecia areata, the target of the attack is the hair follicle. It affects both males and females of all races, and often begins in childhood. There is no known permanent cure.

Patient enrollment for the registry is projected to begin in fall 2001.

Knee, Hip Injuries in Youth Increase Risk of OA Later

Knee and hip injuries in adolescents and young adults have been linked to osteoarthritis (OA) in those joints later in life, according to an article in a recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, conducted over a 46-year period, was designed to identify the body's predictors of the aging process. The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging with investigator support by NIAMS, found that participants with a history of athletic or traumatic injury to the knee joint before age 22 had a higher rate of subsequent knee OA. In addition, knee and hip injuries during followup, in the participants' mid thirties, were also related to future knee and hip OA.

Dr. Allan Gelber of Johns Hopkins was the lead author on the paper. He and his colleagues recommend that physicians who treat young patients with athletic or traumatic injuries include stabilizing the joint with braces, and temporarily reducing high-impact exercise to minimize further damage of the injured joint as part of the treatment regimen. In addition, they advise physicians to advocate use of proper sports equipment under safe conditions to prevent joint injuries from occurring and decrease the long-term risk of OA disease later in life.

OA or degenerative joint disease mostly affects the cartilage, which is the "padding" between two bones. It is the most common type of arthritis and a leading cause of disability, especially among older people. Over 20 million Americans have OA.

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