Latest update (November 2022):

Funding from Alopecia UK was used to perform RNA sequencing on scarring alopecia (frontal fibrosing alopecia) samples. This was as part of a larger project that had received funding from the British Skin Foundation and Cicatricial Alopecia Research Foundation. They found 29 genes whose levels seemed to be raised in skin from regions affected by FFA compared to unaffected skin. The expression of two genes appeared to be reduced. Based on this information, the researchers are hoping to find the pathways involved in causing FFA. One particular gene of interest was Leptin, which is a hormone mostly known for maintaining energy balance by suppressing hunger. But, it may also be involved in regulating the hair growth cycle. As they found increased levels of the Leptin gene in FFA samples, the researchers suggest this may be an interesting target for further research.

The findings from this study were used to support further funding applications. Dr Ross recently wrote about some of his further work in a blog for the British Skin Foundation, which can be found here.

Project information

Alopecia UK funds invested: £1000

When: March 2019 - October 2019 (Completed)

Project Type: Data collection

Project Lead: Dr Kehinde Ross

Length of Project: 6 months

Research Institute: Liverpool John Moores University

Conditions of interest: Lichen planopilaris, frontal fibrosing alopecia

Funds being used for: Completion of next-generation sequencing to determine overall changes in gene outputs in patient skin samples

Research Question:

Do small gene products of the microRNA family contribute to disease processes?

Justification for the research project:

MicroRNAs are small genetic molecules that have emerged as tractable drug targets for a range of complex diseases, from cancer to heart failure. In order to ensure patients with scarring alopecia can benefit from the potential of microRNA-directed therapies, it is crucial to decipher the microRNA alterations associated with the disease, as well as the impact of such changes on inflammation and other biological processes.

The data generated will provide novel insights into the underlying mechanisms of scarring alopecia and support larger grant applications for further translational studies designed to benefit patients.

Who is leading the project:

The study is led by Dr Kehinde Ross, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Cell biology at Liverpool John Moores University. His research focuses on the role of microRNAs and associated pathways in skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, impaired wound healing and alopecia. He also has an interdisciplinary collaboration on the development of lipid and polymer nanocarriers for miRNA-directed therapy for inflammatory diseases.

Dr Ross has been studying microRNA expression and function in the skin for over 10 years and is a member of the British Hair and Nail Society, the British Society for Investigative Dermatology, and the RNA Society. The project involves collaboration with computational biologists and world leaders in scarring alopecia and hair biology. He has recently published the results of a study showing that microRNA-184 regulates keratinocyte differentiation.