One Step Closer Toward Identifying Key Antigen Targets in Alopecia Areata
Researchers from the University of British Columbia recently published an article on the identification of autoantigen epitopes in alopecia areata in the August edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. This project was originally funded by a 2005 NAAF Research Grant Award.
The study investigated the potential for a panel of known epitopes expressed by the components of the skin and the hair follicle to activate specific subtypes of T cells, known as CD4 and cytotoxic CD8 T cells (CTLs). These types of blood cells are known to be important for the onset and progression of alopecia areata, and can contribute to the inflammatory state. The data showed that specific synthetic epitopes derived from hair follicle antigens, such as trichohyalin and tyrosinase-related protein-2, are associated with higher frequencies of response in alopecia areata CTLs compared to healthy controls. For example, trichohyalin is a found in the hair follicle, but also tongue and nails, which can explain the “pitted nail” often seen in AA patients. The scope of inciting epitopes that can be associated with AA helps us understand the variations in disease pathogenesis and presentations. The findings from this article suggest that we are closer to determining the prognostic markers for alopecia areata, and to identifying new targets for treatment.