At the European Hair Research Society (EHRS) conference in June, Alopecia UK awarded a poster prize to the research project most likely to benefit patients. This award was won by Dr Matthew Wynne, a trainee dermatologist at Salford Royal Hospital, for his project titled: ‘Vibration assisted analgesia during intralesional corticosteroid therapy for alopecia’. We caught up with Matthew to share the word about his research.

What was it like to attend a research conference with so many others involved in hair research?

It was my pleasure and privilege to attend the EHRS in Sheffield this year, having been awarded a Travel Grant, sponsored by Alopecia UK. This was a conference of exceptionally high calibre, and in fact, the most enjoyable conference I have attended to date.

I met some fantastic researchers from Germany, including Nicole Cesarato and Buket Basmanav. It was also my pleasure to meet and speak with Professor Lidia Rudnicka and Dr Russell Knudsen, who are both creating fantastic content on their respective YouTube channels. I also met Dr Bessam Farjo, a leading hair transplant Surgeon and will be visiting his clinic later in the year, to learn more about his latest work.

What were your key takeaways from the conference?

While I cannot include all the discussions in the below summary, I have included some that made an impression on me.

Wednesday 14/6/23: The conference commenced with an inspiring opening address from Professor Andrew Messenger and Dr Claire Higgins. The historical understanding and future trajectory of alopecia areata was elegantly summarised by Dr Kevin McElwee and Dr Matthew Harries presented interesting data on emotional responses of patients with alopecia areata, with surprising contrasts to data previously published in psoriasis. Professor Lidia Rudnicka presented the most up to date data for Ritlecitinib from the ALLEGRO trials and Dr Yuval Ramot presented a humerous and entertaining summary of the JAK inhibitor landscape. Other highlights included compelling arguments for adequate scalp cooling for the prevention of chemotherapy induced hair loss and Dr Leila Asfour’s data on the use of systemic minoxidil in children.

Thursday 15/6/23: The second day commenced with an inspiring and engaging trainee breakfast, where esteemed colleagues shared their experiences and guidance with more junior attendees, wishing to pursue further hair research. The academic programme commenced with Dr Julie Thornton’s presentation on the impact of ageing on the female scalp follicle mesenchyme. Dr Jennifer Dillon provided an impressive and ambitious talk on the use of cryopreserved hair follicles, for the purposes of regenerative medicine. In the evening, delegates attended Sheffield Cathedral for a fantastic dinner and were able to enjoy the musical prowess of Professor Vicky Jolliffe. A summary of this event would not be complete without a sincere appreciation for the evening’s MC, Dr Ahmed Kazmi, who provided an exceptionally high quality of entertainment and bags full of charisma.

Friday 16/6/23: The final day was themed on hair growth and cycling. Dr Amelle Ra gave an exceptional presentation on metformin’s ability to attenuate loss of keratin 15 positive epithelial stem cells, in an in vitro model of scarring alopecia. Dr Maria Hordinsky concluded with a thought provoking talk on the interplay between the scalp peripheral nervous system, dysesthesia and hair loss. I was honoured to have been awarded the EHRS 2023 Alopecia UK Patient Impact Award for Best Poster, during the closing ceremony.

Image: Dr Matthew Wynne awarded the Alopecia UK research impact award, by CEO Sue Schilling. 

What motivates me to be involved in hair research?

Researching alopecia is crucial to understanding its underlying causes and developing effective treatments. By unravelling the genetic and environmental factors contributing to hair loss, it is hoped that researchers can devise targeted therapies. Given alopecia's profound impact on self-esteem, mental health, and overall quality of life, advancing our knowledge is essential to improving the lives of those affected.

What research did I present?

My poster was focussed on the use of vibration to reduce pain, during scalp steroid injections, for those with alopecia. Scalp steroid injections are an important treatment option for numerous types of alopecia. However, they can be painful, which in some people, may limit their use, especially over larger areas of the scalp. We demonstrated that the use of vibration significantly reduced pain from these injections. We hope this makes scalp injections more accessible to a wider range of patients, who may benefit from this type of treatment.

I would like to thank Dr Matthew Harries and the entire hair clinic team at Salford Dermatology for their hard work and contributions to the poster I presented. I would also like to thank and acknowledge: the EHRS organising committee; the exhibitors; and the dedicated staff at the Diamond, who worked so hard to ensure a smooth running of events and our comfort throughout.

Finally, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Alopecia UK team, who have been fantastic in their support of this event, a joy to speak with, and who are working so hard to raise awareness and funding for research in alopecia, including: Sue Schilling; Amy Johnson; Niels Bootsma; and Kerry Montgomery. I hope to work with you all again in the near future.

What’s next?

We hope to publish the above research in an academic journal, to make the outcomes more accessible to clinicians around the world. We hope this will give benefit to even more patients.

I can’t give too much away at this stage, but myself and Dr Harries have some more research we are working on, involving how we track the progress of treatments for alopecia over time."


Further reading:

- a round-up of the conference by the Alopecia UK Research Manager Niels. 

- blog by Leah Redmond, PhD student at Imperial College London and winner of the ‘Best Basic Science Poster’.