Alopecia UK funds invested: £9,975

When:  December 2020-August 2022

Project type:  Clinical Research

Project Lead:  Dr Christos Tziotzios

Length of project: 20 months

Research Institute: St John’s Institute of Dermatology

Condition of interest:  Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia

Funds being used for:  Consumables

Research Aims:

To identify further independent genomic risk loci linked to Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA)

To understand the biological role of the FFA-associated genetic variants on expression of genes in the hair follicle, the team aim to study gene expression and regulation and its relationship to genomic variation in human hair follicular units.

Justification for research project:

This research study is investigating a skin condition known as frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA). This is an increasingly common condition that causes inflammation, scarring and permanent hair loss almost exclusively in women. Skin inflammation starts from the scalp, which is affected by pain, burning and itching. The inflammation is very difficult to manage and the disease will forge ahead to affect the entire scalp, especially if not treated with strong drugs that suppress the immune system.

Very little was known about what causes the condition, prior to an original large-scale research study, where this team discovered genes that are strongly associated with FFA. In addition to these, their research identified a number of genes which seemed to be important and merited further study.

The team have increased the number of cases recruited since their original research and aim to continue to do so in order to perform a larger, searching across the genome, in a study known as genome-wide meta-analysis.

Who is leading the project

Dr Tziotzios is currently Consultant Dermatologist and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at St John’s Institute of Dermatology. Prior to training in clinical medicine at Cambridge, he worked as research pharmacologist in the pharmaceutical industry. He has been on the NIHR Integrated Academic Training pathway following graduation from Cambridge. He has been awarded numerous postgraduate research grants and undertook PhD research into the aetiopathogenesis of frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA). Having established and led a UK-wide research network, he undertook the first large-scale systematic study into FFA, which has provided novel disease insight and culminated in several high-impact publications, including an original article in Nature Communications. He currently is National Chief Investigator for clinical trials in alopecia areata and maintains his academic interest in the genetics of immune-mediated alopecia, lichenoid inflammation and allergy.

Dr Tziotzios will be working with Professor John McGrath, Mary Dunhill Chair in Cutaneous Medicine, Genetic Skin Disease Group Leader and Head of  Institute, St John’s Institute of Dermatology, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, King’s College London and Professor Michael Simpson, Professor of Genetics, Head of Genomic Medicine Group, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, King’s College London.