WEDNESDAY, Oct. 10, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- A 13-year-old girl who has been without hair on her scalp since the age of 2 has seen significant regrowth ever since taking a drug meant to help ease her eczema, doctors say.
Dr. Maryanne Makredes Senna of Massachusetts General Hospital and her colleagues in the department of dermatology were "quite surprised" at the girl's hair regrowth, because "other treatments that can help with hair loss did not in her case."
The unnamed girl has alopecia totalis -- a total lack of scalp hair -- along with eczema, and was receiving weekly injections of the drug dupilumab (brand name Dupixent) to treat her eczema.
After six weeks of treatment, very fine hairs began to appear on the girl's scalp, and by seven months of treatment she had significant hair regrowth, according to the case study published Oct. 10 in JAMA Dermatology.
"As far as we know, this is the first report of hair regrowth with dupilumab in a patient with any degree of alopecia areata," Senna said in a hospital news release.
The hair growth seems tied to the drug. According to the doctors, when the girl had to stop taking dupilumab for two months due to a change in her insurance coverage, her newly regrown hair started to fall out. But when she started the drug treatment again, the hair growth resumed.
It's not clear how the drug is having this effect. But Senna explained that dupilumab targets an immune system pathway known to be overactive in eczema. Recent studies have suggested the same pathway may induce autoimmune-caused hair loss.
"Right now, it's hard to know whether dupilumab could induce hair growth in other alopecia patients, but I suspect it may be helpful in patients with extensive active eczema and active alopecia areata," said Senna, who is principal investigator of the Hair Academic Innovative Research (HAIR) unit at the Boston hospital.
"We've submitted a proposal for a clinical trial using dupilumab in this patient population and hope to be able to investigate it further in the near future," Senna said.
One dermatologist who was unconnected to the case said the results are intriguing, but preliminary.
"More research is needed to show if this drug or other biologics will grow hair," said Dr. Michele Green, who practices at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It is possible that this immune mechanism may be the key to treating patients with alopecia areata and unlocking the treatment for this mysterious autoimmune disease."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on alopecia-totalis.