Today’s the day. No, not Valentine's Day, although no escaping that it's the 14th February! I am just about to give a scalp biopsy sample which will be stored in the University of Bradford’s Ethical Tissue Bank. My sample will be used in research projects which seek to find the answers about the weird and wonderful condition that is Alopecia Areata. 

I’m not going to lie; I’m getting a bit anxious. Truth be told, I’m a total wimp. A wuss if you like. I’m sure my pain threshold is extraordinarily low or I’ve just had lots of very painful things happen to me – broken limbs, root canal treatments, my entire body stung by a swarm of stinging insects...yes, these things have all happened to me. So the idea of voluntarily saying to someone ‘Yep, cut a piece of my scalp away’ seems a bit mad. I’ve been reassured with ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be injected with local anaesthetic, it won’t hurt’. Oh yes, an injection to one of the least fleshy parts of my body – that shouldn’t hurt at all. Gulps. 

So why have I decided to do this? Well, Alopecia UK was asked to advertise for participants to provide scalp biopsy samples. The hospital taking the samples is less than 4 miles from my house. I just felt that with it being practically on my doorstep, I should volunteer my perfectly patchy scalp. (The researchers are looking for samples from people with patchy Alopecia Areata – and my scalp is pretty much textbook AA!)

When it comes to my alopecia, I’ve never pursued any treatment options such as steroid injections or DCP application. They were never offered to me at the point of me losing my hair. Years later, upon seeing another dermatologist, these types of treatments were suggested for me but they sounded very uncomfortable (Did I tell you i'm a wuss?!) and I wanted higher odds of success than the ‘50/50’ that was offered. As such, I’ve decided to let nature run its course over the past 10 years which has seen me get nearly a full head of hair (twice) only for it to fall out again. Alopecia Areata really is a cruel beast which is why I’m keen to do my little bit to try and find some answers.

I’m hoping that when I come to finish writing this blog post this afternoon, I’ll be able to tell you all that it was a very quick and pain-free procedure. I promise to be absolutely honest in my account but regardless of my interpretation of events, I hope others will consider providing a scalp biopsy to support research projects. 


I am very pleased (and relieved!) to say that the biopsy was much less of an ordeal than I had built up in my mind. In fact, it barely caused me any discomfort. As I expected, the injection of local anaesthetic was the most painful bit and that was NOWHERE near as uncomfortable as anaesthetic injections I’ve had to endure for dental treatments. It was more like a sharp scratch and sting. But it passed very quickly. The actual biopsy procedure, I didn’t feel any pain at all. I could feel a slight tugging when the sample was taken and I could feel a little pulling when the stitches were put in. The whole procedure was over within about 5 minutes; very quick and much less uncomfortable than I’d anticipated - I wish I hadn't worried so much. 

It was great to meet Professor Andrew Wright and Sister Annette Essex at St Luke’s Hospital in Bradford. Both were very welcoming and grateful to me for coming in to provide my sample. I haven’t seen a Dermatologist about my alopecia for a number of years now. Professor Wright was clued up about current developments so it was good to talk to him and he hopes the next few years will be an exciting time for the development of further treatment options for those with Alopecia Areata.

The Ethical Tissue Bank at Bradford is looking for further patients with patchy Alopecia Areata to provide biopsy samples. You need to be willing to travel to St Luke’s Hospital in Bradford (and will need to return a week later for the removal of stitches).

Click here for details of how to get involved in this research.