A South African Professor Has Discovered a New Gene Which Causes Permanent Hair Loss

A South African professor Ncoza Dlova has discovered a new gene that is a major cause of permanent hair loss among women who have African descent.

Ncoza is the Dean of Clinical Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal; an internationally renowned dermatologist collaborated with scientists in the US to discover the root cause of Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA), one of the most common causes of scarring alopecia among African women.

Alopecia refers to hair loss from part of the head or the body. Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia is a type of alopecia that begins at the mid line of the scalp, is symmetric, and exhibits scarring.

It is also known as hot comb alopecia because it was first noticed in African Americans as a result of the application of petroleum jelly on the hair followed by the use of a heated iron comb. It was first thought that hot petroleum jelly would travel down to the hair root, burn the follicle, and, after repetitive injury, result in scarring. However, it has since been discovered that CCCA affects men and women without a significant history of using hot combs. The terms follicular degeneration syndrome and CCCA were therefore taken up as a replacement for ‘hot comb alopecia’.

This ground-breaking study, titled: ‘Variant PAD13 in Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia’ was published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the highest impact journals in medical science.

According to UKZN, patients with CCCA were recruited from Durban, South Africa, from 2013 through 2016 and in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from 2014 through 2017.

She said that the discovery is “probably the biggest breakthrough in South African Dermatology”

This discovery is a first in the world, and it followed links to Ncoza’s earlier publication of 2013, in which she reported for the first time a familial association in a cluster of black South African families with CCCA and have been following the 15 families for 5 years and 7 years,  later a gene has been identified. This has huge implications on early diagnosis, prevention and possible future targeted therapy of CCCA.

Long hair in women is seen as a sign of beauty and femininity. This, therefore, makes it distressing for women to undergo hair loss as society expects them to have long hair.

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