Mechanistic Studies of Interleukin-7 Signaling Pathway in Alopecia Areata

PI Name: 
Zhenpeng Dai, PhD
Mentored Investigator Award


This project aims to understand the pathogenic role of Interleukin (IL)-7 and its receptor blockade in alopecia areata (AA) using the C3H/HeJ mouse model and to assess IL-7 expression correlation in human AA skin or blood correlates with disease severity and parallels clinical status.


Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease that causes the hair to fall out, in which immune cells attack the hair follicle. There is neither a cure for AA nor drugs approved for its treatment. T cells are a type of cells involved in various immune responses in the body. Much evidence shows that AA is a T cell mediated disorder. We identified a new type of T cells that reside in the skin and play an important part in skin immune function. Upregulation of cytokine, such as IL-7 can support the T cells survival and growth which results in the accumulation of stimulated T cells around the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Given the therapeutic potential of IL-7 and its receptor blockade in AA, the overall objective of the research project is to understand its role in AA and to determine the mechanisms of blocking this cytokine in the mouse model.


If successful, this study will provide valuable information about the role of IL-7 in the onset of alopecia areata and therapeutic potential. Investment in a well-trained young investigator with a multidisciplinary background will likely lead to future alopecia areata research and NIH funding.


Dai Z, Wang E, de Jong A, Christiano AM. Alopecia areata is reversed by IL-7Rα blockade via upregulation of the PD-1 signaling pathway and T cell exhaustion [Abstract 101]. J Investig Dermatol. 2018 May;138(S5):S17. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2018.03.105