Alopecia UK funds invested:  £10,000

When:  October 2020- September 2022

Project type:  Clinical Research

Project Lead:  Dr Claire Higgins

Collaborators: Mrs Stephanie Moore, Miss Leen Batha.

Length of project: 2 years

Research Institute:  Imperial College, London

Conditions to be studied:  Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL), Male Pattern Hair Loss (MPHL), Telogen Effluvium (TE), Alopecia Areata (AA), Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA) and Lichen Planopilaris (LPP).

Funds being used for:  Consumables costs for microbiome analysis

Overall Aim of the Project:

To find out if there are differences in the scalp microbiome in different types of hair loss that can be used to identify the type of hair loss and are potential causes of that type of hair loss.

Justification for research project:

Dr Higgins plans to perform an in-depth analysis to determine the microbiome signatures of 6 different types of alopecia. They will use this to identify microbes which are generally characteristic of hair loss and distinguish these from microbes which are unique to a specific form of alopecia. Longer term, this data will be scrutinised to determine if the specific microbes are causative of hair loss, and if therapeutic intervention to alter the microbiome signatures can serve as a treatment for alopecia, and reverse hair loss.

Who is leading the project:

Dr Claire Higgins has a long-standing interest hair follicle development and disease. After conducting a PhD at the University of Durham (2003-2007) researching hair shedding, she did a postdoc in the Dermatology Department at Columbia University (2007-2013). Here, she researched various topics ranging from hair neogenesis for Androgenetic Alopecia, through to the genetic causes of Trichomegaly and Alopecia Areata. She was a co-author on the JAK inhibitors for Alopecia Areata story, which was published in Nature Medicine in 2014, changing the field of alopecia research. Since 2014 she has led her own research group (www.higginslab.org) in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London, focusing on the response of the skin and hair follicle to perturbations in the form of physical trauma and disease. She is also the founder of the London Skin Club, a network to discuss and further scientific and clinical collaborations in hair and skin research.