Alopecia UK funds invested:  £28,932

When:  December 2022 - August 2023

Project type:  Basic science

Project Lead:  Dr Talveen Purba

Length of project: 9 months

Research Institute:  University of Manchester

Condition of interest:  Alopecia Areata

Funds being used for:  Research technician, consumables

Overall Aim of the Project:

To study how immune cells and hair cells produce and use energy in people with alopecia areata.

Justification for research project:

The ways that individual hair follicles convert energy from food (metabolism) might be disrupted in alopecia areata (AA). Because this has never been studied before, we will analyse scalp skin metabolites in patients with AA using a method called mass spectrometry. This will allow us to determine if there are any metabolic changes in AA that might contribute to the causes of hair loss. Then, by looking at scalp tissue slices, we will use a new sophisticated tool called imaging mass cytometry to build a detailed map of how hair follicle immune cells in AA obtain energy. This will allow us to identify the unique energy needs of immune cells in the hair follicle. By knowing this, we can then find ways to manipulate their energy supply to change their function to stop attack. Finally, we have discovered that a specific metabolic pathway connected to the amino acid methionine is very important to hair growth. This pathway plays a role in the regulation of T Cell immunity; therefore we will follow this lead and examine how it is involved with the development of AA. Together this work will help us to find new ways to prevent or reverse AA by targeting metabolism. It is hoped this could be achieved through non-invasive dietary measures, or through the use of drugs designed to alter metabolism.

Who is leading the project:

Dr Talveen Purba is Perera Fellow at the University of Manchester supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre and the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund. He conducted his PhD and post-doc training with Prof. Ralf Paus, a world leader in human hair research, and has over 10 years of experience in translational hair research.Talveen now runs his own research group in Manchester alongside Dr Matthew Harries, leading his own grant-funded projects as PI. Talveen’s research interests include hair loss disorders (Hardman-Smart et al., 2020; Hardman et al., 2020; Piccini et al., 2022; Purba et al., 2019) hair follicle metabolism (Purba, Berriche, & Paus, 2021), and developing new cutting-edge hair research techniques (Purba et al., 2016; 2018). He has published 16 articles to date, many of which feature in leading dermatology and translational research journals (e.g., British Journal of Dermatology, EMBO Molecular Medicine).