Alopecia UK held our second ever ‘Research Pots’ Funding call this year, hoping to fund some exciting new alopecia research. Back in 2018, we funded two research projects, ‘Characterising the role of antigen presenting cells in Alopecia Areata’, at the University of Bradford and ‘Coeliac disease and micronutrient deficiency in alopecia areata: association or coincidence’, at St John’s Institute of Dermatology, which are both now underway. Our 2018 funding call was specifically targeted at research into alopecia areata, so this year we decided to broaden the remit and invite applications for research into all types of alopecia.

We invited applications for funding for three grant types: Research Pots (up to £10,000), small grants (up to £1,500) and PPI grants (up to £500). We received some fantastic applications from clinicians, basic scientists, and psychologists, so the range and breadth of topics covered was brilliant.

The applications were peer reviewed by external experts and scored by our Lay Panel before they were assessed by our Research Committee. The Research Committee meeting was held on the 17th of June and two members of the Lay Panel attended (click here to find out more). The committee chose three grants to fund (one research pot, one small grant and one PPI grant). They also recommended three projects to be put forward for the Patients’ Choice vote, which was held last week.

We are in the process of sorting out the terms and conditions with the winning institutions. The start dates of these projects will have to be flexible, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but we hope that these projects will start as soon as possible.  We will shortly add details of all of the projects to our 'Research Projects' page but, for now, here is a short summary of the four fantastic new projects we will be funding:

The Committee’s Choice:

The committee awarded £9,975 to a project studying Frontal Fibrosing alopecia (FFA). The project title is ‘Genome-wide meta-analysis and comprehensive functional annotation of susceptibility loci in female frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA)’. This study will be run by Dr Christos Tziotzios, Consultant Dermatologist and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at St John's Institute of Dermatology. Dr Tziotzios has published several high impact papers on FFA, including an original article in Nature Communications, so we are delighted to be funding some of his research.

Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA) is an increasingly common disease that causes inflammation, scarring and permanent hair loss almost exclusively in women. The inflammation is very difficult to manage and the disease will eventually affect the entire scalp, especially if not treated with strong drugs that suppress the immune system. Dr Tziotzios’ original large-scale research study, uncovered genes that are strongly associated with development of FFA. During the course of the study, they also identified a number of genes which seemed to be worth further investigation. The aim of this study is to undertake a larger scale analysis of the genes involved in FFA.

The Patients’ Choice:

The Research Committee recommended three projects to be put forward for the Patients’ choice vote. More than 60% of the votes went to Dr Claire Higgins, from Imperial College London, for a project entitled ’Microbiota signature of Alopecias’. Claire was awarded £10,000 to study changes in scalp microbiome in six different types of alopecia, Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL), Male Pattern Hair Loss (MPHL), Telogen Effluvium (TE), Alopecia Areata (AA), Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA) and Lichen planopilaris (LPP). The aim of the study is to identify microbes which are characteristic of hair loss and distinguish these from microbes which are unique to a specific form of alopecia. Longer term, the results of this study will be used to determine if the specific microbes are causing hair loss, and if therapeutic intervention to alter the microbiome can serve as a treatment for alopecia, and reverse hair loss.

Small Grants winner:

After much discussion, the Research Committee awarded a small grant to Tuntas Rayinda, a research student at King’s College London. Tuntas will be working on a project entitled ‘Molecular exploration of male frontal fibrosing alopecia’. There genetic basis of male FFA has not been investigated to date: they have managed to recruit a large cohort of male cases. The aim of this project is to find out what genes contribute to developing the condition in men. This will provide a better understanding of the causes of the condition and hopefully enable more research into appropriate and effective treatments.

PPI grants winner:

A grant of £500 was awarded to Dr Shruti Narayanswamy, from the University of St Andrews, to carry out her project, called ‘Do You See You? Impact of Media Representation on Women with Alopecia’. Dr Narayanswamy will be interviewing people affected by alopecia, learning from them, and using their experiences to help us understand how representations of the condition in wider media impacts people with Alopecia. The project will shed light on how media can create more responsible, positive and sensitive representations.

Please consider making a donation to help us fund more exciting research into alopecia