Fibroblast cell-based therapy prevents induction of alopecia areata in an experimental model

Cell Transplant. 2018 Jun;27(6):994-1004. doi: 10.1177/0963689718773311. Epub 2018 Jun 5.


Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune hair loss disease with infiltration of proinflammatory cells into hair follicles. Current therapeutic regimens are unsatisfactory mainly because of the potential for side effects and/or limited efficacy. Here we report that cultured, transduced fibroblasts, which express the immunomodulatory molecule indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), can be applied to prevent hair loss in an experimental AA model. A single intraperitoneal (IP) injection of IDO-expressing primary dermal fibroblasts was given to C3H/HeJ mice at the time of AA induction. While 60-70% of mice that received either control fibroblasts or vehicle injections developed extensive AA, none of the IDO-expressing fibroblast-treated mice showed new hair loss up to 20 weeks post injection. IDO cell therapy significantly reduced infiltration of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells into hair follicles and resulted in decreased expression of TNF-α, IFN-γ and IL-17 in the skin. Skin draining lymph nodes of IDO fibroblast-treated mice were significantly smaller, with more CD4+ CD25+ FoxP3+ regulatory T cells and fewer Th17 cells than those of control fibroblast and vehicle-injected mice. These findings indicate that IP injected IDO-expressing dermal fibroblasts can control inflammation and thereby prevent AA hair loss.

Keywords: Alopecia areata; autoimmunity; cell therapy; fibroblasts; hair follicles; immune tolerance; indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia Areata / pathology
  • Alopecia Areata / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / analysis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / transplantation*
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase / genetics*
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Transduction, Genetic


  • Cytokines
  • Indoleamine-Pyrrole 2,3,-Dioxygenase