Alopecia UK funds invested: £14,387

When: May 2024 - June 2025

Project type: Basic Science

Project lead: Dr Matt Hindle

Research Institute: Centre for Biomedical Science Research, Leeds Beckett University 

Conditions studied: Alopecia areata

Funds being used for: Laboratory materials and conference travel

Research aim: 

To understand the role of platelet hyperactivity and platelet-immune activation in alopecia areata development and progression, and to determine if commonly used anti-platelet drugs can block this effect. 

Justification for the research project: 

Platelets are cells in the blood that are important for stopping people bleeding when an injury occurs. In some autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus, platelets are well known to play an important role in the development and progression of disease. In alopecia areata, which is also an autoimmune disorder, there is published evidence that shows platelets are changing to become more hyperactive in the condition, but this observation requires further study. This project proposes to explore that currently poorly understood area. We suggest that platelets are changing to become hyperactive and through this they talk more to other cells in the body, like white blood cells, and this drives activation of the immune system, inflammation, and development of dysfunctional immunity. This is a phenomenon which occurs commonly throughout autoimmune conditions.

How will the research be done:

In this project we will use laboratory-based research techniques such as flow cytometry to find out if platelets are becoming partially activated in the blood of people with alopecia areata. This will directly involve alopecia areata patients, who will be contacted and recruited through Alopecia UK and current alopecia support networks. We will check if the platelets from people with alopecia areata are hyperactive and interacting with the immune system.

Alongside these experiments we will also check to see if we can reduce platelet-immune hyperactivity in alopecia areata. We will do this using anti-platelet drugs that are well tolerated by patients with few side-effects. In the laboratory, using patient blood, we will test if these drugs can help turn off the partially activated platelets, preventing them talking to immune cells, which will help to reduce the immune activity responsible for alopecia areata. Importantly the use of anti-platelet drugs has been shown to improve rheumatoid arthritis severity, and results are pending on systemic lupus erythematosus.

Who is leading the project:

Dr. Hindle is an experienced biomedical researcher with specialist expertise working on primary patient samples exploring platelet hyperactivity. He completed his PhD studying platelet function by flow cytometry, publishing a high impact manuscript describing his findings. Subsequently he completed a postdoctoral research position funded by the British Heart Foundation, as a result he is aware of the societal impact and importance of charity-led and funded research. Throughout the postdoctoral period Dr. Hindle was able to continue his developments in understanding platelet hyperactivity through flow cytometry while also applying these novel techniques to patient cohorts through a project funded by Heart Research UK, leading to further publications. The experience of working with primary patient samples is critical to this proposal. More recently he has moved to Leeds Beckett University into a permanent research & teaching post, here he is leading a research portfolio which has a core theme of translational impact.