A South African professor has made what is being referred to as the biggest breakthrough in hair loss amongst African women. Her name is Professor Ncoza Dlova, she is the Dean of Clinical Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and she has discovered the core source of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA).
What is Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA)?
Alopecia refers to hair loss from part of the head or the body. Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia is a type of alopecia that begins at the midline of the scalp. CCCA is symmetric and exhibits scarring. It is also known as hot comb alopecia because it was first noticed in African Americans as a result of the application of petroleum jelly on the hair followed by the use of a heated iron comb. It was first thought that hot petroleum jelly would travel down to the hair root, burn the follicle, and, after repetitive injury, result in scarring. However, it has since been discovered that CCCA affects men and women without a significant history of using hot combs. The terms follicular degeneration syndrome and CCCA were therefore taken up as a replacement for 'hot comb alopecia'.
Prof. Dlova's discovery
Prof. Dlova along with her team of scientists sought to determine whether there is a genetic basis for CCCA. Using various genetic techniques, they discovered that a mutation in PADI3, which encodes a protein that is essential to proper hair-shaft formation, were associated with CCCA. A replication set that consisted of women with CCCA was used to confirm the data obtained with the discovery set. The details of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine under the title "Variant PAD13 in Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia".
Hair Loss in Women
Long hair in women is seen as a sign of beauty and femininity. This, therefore, makes it distressing for women to undergo hair loss as society expects them to have long hair. This study thus has medical and societal significance. In a statement issued by the university, Dlova said, “This is probably the biggest breakthrough in South African Dermatology."
This discovery is a first in the world, and it followed links to my earlier publication of 2013, in which I reported for the first time a familial association in a cluster of black South African families with CCCA and have been following the 15 families for five years, and seven years later a gene has been identified. This has huge implications on early diagnosis, prevention and possible future targeted therapy of CCCA. - Prof. Dlova.
Individuals with PAD13 mutations are predisposed to CCCA and this presents or is triggered by environmental factors such as damaging hair grooming practices like the use of chemicals, traction, heat, braids and weaves. These practices are used by many black women in the world as a result of trying to assimilate into a world dominated by white beauty standards. Aside from triggering CCCA, these practices also result in a different type of alopecia known as traction alopecia.
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