Earlier this month, Research Manager Niels attended the World Congress for Hair Research in Dallas to learn more about all the research happening globally, directly from the leaders in the field. This pinnacle event in hair research takes place every two years, with this year’s event being attended by people from 40 different countries. As if the research being presented wasn’t exciting enough by itself, the organisers made sure this was an event never to be forgotten. On the third day of the conference, a total solar eclipse swept across Dallas, leaving the hair research community in awe.

Images: total solar eclipse on April 8th 2024, pictured by Niels.  

In the time since the last World Congress for Hair Research in Melbourne, Australia (2022), the JAK inhibitor medicines have established themselves as a safe and effective option for people with severe alopecia areata. Among the clinicians who see people with hair disorders, there was much excitement about the possibilities this brings to their patients.

In the UK, there are now 2 licensed JAK inhibitors: baricitinib and ritlecitinib, produced by Eli Lilly and Pfizer, respectively, two of the companies sponsoring the Congress. Ritlecitinib has been recommended by NICE and SMC for use within the NHS earlier this year. Other pharmaceutical companies will also be hoping to make their JAK inhibitor medicine available to people with alopecia areata, such as Sun Pharma with deuruxolitinib, who was another of the sponsors of the Congress.

With the success of JAK inhibitors in treating alopecia areata, clinicians are now also looking at using them in other hair loss conditions, and particularly in putting a stop to the inflammation in scarring alopecias. For now, this is in small numbers of patients, but the results appear promising, and larger clinical trials are underway.  

While JAK inhibitors are the hot topic in the hair loss world right now, there was plenty of other research to be excited about, with featured sessions on scarring alopecias, androgenetic alopecia (male/female pattern hair loss), hair research methodology (imaging, genetics, cell analysis), hair follicle basic science (biology, hair growth, microenvironment, pigmentation), psychosocial aspects of hair loss, hair care practices, trichology, hair types and texture, graying, and more.

Alongside the oral presentations, in the exhibition spaces there were over 200 research posters on display, on everything to do with hair. Attendees also had the chance to talk directly to people affected by various hair disorders, during ‘live patient viewings’. 

Additionally, some of the other organisations in attendance at the Congress included the US-based patient support groups National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) and Scarring Alopecia Foundation (SAF), the Skin of Color Society, and the World Trichology Society, and various businesses making products for hair and dermatology.   

Image: Pictured with Niels are (from left to right) NAAF Senior Director of Research Lisa Anderson PhD, NAAF President & CEO Nicole Friedland, and NAAF Chief Growth Officer Robbie Baker. 

The Congress was also a great opportunity for networking, with facilitated sessions including ‘methods matchmaking’ (allowing researchers in different disciplines to find collaborators), a ‘meet the experts’ breakfast session, lively Q&A after the presentations, and countless hallway conversations.  

As Professor Rod Sinclair, one of the leaders in the field of hair research, described at the end of the Congress:

"With communication amongst researchers, change can be achieved incredibly quickly. From the observation in 2014 that JAK proteins are involved in alopecia areata, to FDA registered JAK inhibitor medicines in 2022, is a spectacular speed."

He added, “We can all, working together, change the world.“ 

Keep an eye out for a more in-depth scientific round-up of the 13th World Congress for Hair Research, from Research Manager Niels, which will be posted on our website later.

If you would like to make a donation to Alopecia UK, to help us with our work under our aims of Support, Awareness and Research, you can do so here.