Alopecia UK (AAR-UK at time of donation) funds invested:  £20,000

When:  March 2017

Project type:  Biobank for alopecia research

Project Lead:  Professor Simon Milling

Length of project:  3 years

Research Institute: University of Glasgow

Condition of interest:  Alopecia areata/totalis/universalis (samples also being taken from people without alopecia, for comparison)

Funds being used for:  Research Nurse to collect biopsies and blood samples for alopecia studies

More information about the biobank:

AAR-UK set out to establish the first alopecia biobank registry within the UK.  To establish this, AAR-UK’s founder Jayne Waddell organised a meeting with Professor Iain McInnes from Glasgow University with a view to finding the best way to proceed for the biobank to be viable. An AAR-UK crowd funding campaign then followed which raised the £20,000 that was required to pay for the clinic to take the samples.  

Nicola McBride (AAR-UK Research Co-ordinator) worked closely with Simon Milling and Kym Bain from Glasgow University to set up the clinic for the biobank samples.  Together with dermatologist Susan Holmes they secured the necessary ethical approval and developed the questionnaires required for the participants to fill in at the clinic with the research nurse. They also put provisions in place to safeguard the samples and ensure that participant’s personal information is protected. 

The clinic is now up and running and currently runs once a week on a Monday afternoon, usually at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.  Volunteers from the Glasgow area contact the Research Nurse by e-mail, and an appointment is arranged.  At the clinic, the Research Nurse obtains patient consent, completes the questionnaires with participants to get a detailed history, and takes the blood and tissue samples, giving the participant the home kit for stool samples to be handed back into the clinic.  The samples are then stored within the biobank at the University of Glasgow.

Participants are offered the opportunity to provide blood samples, skin swabs, skin biopsies and stool samples. The biobank was set up in conjunction with Glasgow University student, Kym Bain’s, PhD project which looks at the pathogenesis of alopecia areata and the potential link to intestinal inflammation.  Kym's project is funded by Medical Research Scotland and has industry funding from pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca.  The project supervisors are Professor Simon Milling and Professor Iain McInnes (from Glasgow University) and Annika Ȧstrand (from AstraZeneca). 

Interested scientists can apply for access to samples from the biobank by contacting Professor Milling at the University of Glasgow. Potential participants from the Glasgow area can find more details about the study here.

Updates from the Biobank:

To date, over 100 volunteers have given samples to the Biobank, which is fantastic. Kym writes regular blog posts for us, to keep us updated on the outcomes of her research project using samples from the Biobank. These are available here:

Time for T-cells (November 2018)

Making sense of molecules (June 2019)

Research Outcomes:

Kym has published a paper looking at  the immune system in alopecia, available here.