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Thyroid levels affect Alzheimer’s risk – study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Women with low or high levels of a hormone that affects thyroid gland function and thyroid hormone levels may have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers reported Monday.

While it is not clear whether Alzheimer’s affects thyroid function or the other way around, the findings dovetail with long-standing knowledge that having an underactive or overactive thyroid can affect memory.

Dr. Zaldy Tan of Hebrew SeniorLife, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues looked at measured levels of a thyroid-regulating hormone called thyrotropin in 1,864 healthy men and women with an average age of 71.

They had blood drawn as part of the larger Framingham Health Study in which practically everyone in a Massachusetts town has had their health scrutinized for decades.

Writing in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, Tan and colleagues said 209 of the volunteers had developed Alzheimer’s disease after nearly 13 years.

Women with the lowest and highest levels of thyrotropin had more than double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. No such relationship was seen in men.

Changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease may reduce the amount of thyrotropin released, Tan’s team said. Alternately, low or high thyrotropin levels could damage brain cells or blood vessels.

They said the findings should be tested in a larger population. (Reporting by Maggie Fox; editing by Todd Eastham)

Source: Reuters North American News Service

Photo trichogram findings in women with AGA

Phototrichogram findings in women with androgenetic alopecia.
Department of Dermatology, Sisli Etfal Research and Training Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey.

Background/purpose: Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) in women is characterized by diffuse thinning in the frontal and parietal areas of the scalp; preservation of the frontal hairline is norm. Hair over the occipital scalp is preserved. The purpose of this work was to investigate the findings of phototrichogram (PTG) of the affected and the spared areas in women with AGA and to compare them with those of healthy subjects.

Methods: Twenty-two controls and 60 untreated women with AGA (32 with Ludwig I, 28 with Ludwig II) were included in this study. Hair density, percentages of thin hair, and non-growing hair were estimated both on the midscalp and on the occiput by using PTG with digital camera attached to a dermoscope.

Results: In the control group, hair density was higher on the midscalp than the occiput. In AGA groups, hair density was lower on the midscalp than the occiput and percentages of thin hair and non-growing hair were higher on the midscalp than the occiput. These findings were more prominent in Ludwig II group. In the occiput there were findings mimicking the changes seen on the midscalp. These were less striking than those seen on the midscalp yet the difference between the control and Ludwig II group was statistically significant.

Conclusion: We concluded that the hair is not equally distributed on the scalp, the occiput may be affected in females with AGA and further studies are necessary to support these findings.

PMID: 17026665 [PubMed – in process]

What Causes Alopecia Universalis?

In alopecia universalis, immune system cells called white blood cells attack the rapidly growing cells in the hair follicles that make the hair. The affected hair follicles become small and drastically slow down hair production. Fortunately, the stem cells that continually supply the follicle with new cells do not seem to be targeted. So the follicle always has the potential to regrow hair.

Scientists do not know exactly why the hair follicles undergo these changes, but they suspect that a combination of genes may predispose some people to the disease. In those who are genetically predisposed, some type of trigger–perhaps a virus or something in the person’s environment–brings on the attack against the hair follicles.

There are, however, studies that have been done that show a genetic link for those people who are diagnosed as having Alopecia Universalis. According to MedicineNet.com, the “disorder is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. It is caused by a mutation in a gene dubbed HR in chromosome band 8p21.2 that is the human homolog of the mouse “hairless” gene — the human version of the gene in the mouse that is responsible for hairless mice.” Huh?? Basically they are saying that a good majority of those who develop alopecia universalis have a hereditary gene that could be the possible cause of their hair loss. This is great news since pinpointing a gene may provide scientists a more targeted approach to treating hair growth disorders such as alopecia.

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