Written by Philip Kingsley Trichologist, Carole Michaelides MIT.
The 7th World Congress for Hair Research, organised this year by the European Hair Research Society, took place in Edinburgh from 4th to 6th May. Four Consultant Trichologists from the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic attended. There was a very full programme over the three days, with several sessions running concurrently, on a wide range of topics, and a more than usual emphasis on clinical practice.
There were a number of areas of interest clinically that also served to reinforce the validity of treatments we, as trichologists, can provide.
With so much that was of interest it is difficult to single out any one presentation, however I found the talk on the genetics and immunology of alopecia areata given by the wonderful geneticist Angela Christiano from the USA, was delivered with such enthusiasm for the topic it was contagious. This still doesn’t translate into any new treatments for alopecia areata, but it shows the great amount of interest there is in the unique organ that is the hair follicle. The ease of accessibility to the stem cells in the hair follicle make it a perfect model for genetic research – indeed it is hoped that research carried out using the hair follicle will help provide answers to many other diseases – not least cancer.
Another focus of much research is scarring alopecia – there appears to be an epidemic and we see many more than ever before. It seems that environmental toxins such as phytochemicals (especially those rich in tannins), detergents, pesticides, some painkillers and other agents may affect biological processes and cause damage to the cells making the hair. If we can isolate some of the culprits, and identify those women (the majority of sufferers are women over 50) most at risk, we can hope to reduce the prevalence of these destructive hair loss conditions.
The success rate of hair transplants in scarring alopecia was examined too. If the scarring is secondary, say to an accident or surgical treatment, then there is a very high chance of a successful lasting transplant. However in cases of the scarring alopecia diseases, the chances of a successful transplant seem to be really quite low. This is because the disease can appear stable but may reactivate, destroying the transplanted hair. This is devastating, and for most people with primary scarring alopecia we do not recommend hair transplants.
There were so many other interesting presentations and lectures on subjects ranging from cosmetic processes to invisible bleeding in shaved hair styles – highlighting many risks from hair damage to cross infection. Of course research into hair loss was the main conference topic, but I was dismayed that in spite of all of the analysis of hair proteins in hair loss disorders, there was not one presentation on nutrition. Lack of the right dietary protein, too many sugars and carbs - diet may not cause all the problems we see, but it certainly plays a part. Maybe next year…