Could a hair loss condition have a relationship with celiac disease? — Researchers say yes — sort of.

According to CNN, scientists at Columbia University studied the genetics of those with Alopecia Areata (AA) and found the genes are more closely linked to autoimmune disorders, like celiac disease, than they ever imagined.  On Dr. Gupta’s blog, they interviewed Dr. Angela Christiano, lead author of the study and  professor of dermatology and genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center:

“She noted her team’s discovery is important because it was originally thought that AA was more related to inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis, where a particular cell attacks the skin. But during their research, Christiano and her investigators learned that AA is actually more genetically related to celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes – and since there are many drugs under development and some on the market already for the same gene targets, new treatments for AA should be relatively close by.” — pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com

It would be interesting to hear what drugs they’re talking about — and if any of them will help celiacs.  “We may soon be able to test these drugs in clinical trials for [AA],” Dr. Christiano told Medscape. “Finally, we have the possibility of developing drugs that specifically target the mechanism behind the disease.”

At this point, this research isn’t saying anything drastic or concrete like — if you have celiac you’re going to get alopecia, or if you have alopecia go on the gluten-free diet and it will help you.  However, other autoimmune disorders can run together in some families; like celiac and type 1 diabetes (see recent research on testing for celiac in type 1 diabetic children).  Researchers admit

But it is always good to learn the new connections that researchers learn every day about celiac and other related health issues.

Note: The Medscape article is very detailed about the study, including naming the genes involved. Feel free to give it a read if that detail interests you. You will have to join Medscape (free of charge) to read the article.

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