Pathomechanisms of immune-mediated alopecia

Int Immunol. 2019 Jul 13;31(7):439-447. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxz039.


The hair follicle (HF) is a complex mini-organ that constantly undergoes dynamic cycles of growth and regression throughout life. While proper progression of the hair cycle requires homeostatic interplay between the HF and its immune microenvironment, specific parts of the HF, such as the bulge throughout the hair cycle and the bulb in the anagen phase, maintain relative immune privilege (IP). When this IP collapses, inflammatory infiltrates that aggregate around the bulge and bulb launch an immune attack on the HF, resulting in hair loss or alopecia. Alopecia areata (AA) and primary cicatricial alopecia (PCA) are two common forms of immune-mediated alopecias, and recent advancements in understanding their disease mechanisms have accelerated the discovery of novel treatments for immune-mediated alopecias, specifically AA. In this review, we highlight the pathomechanisms involved in both AA and CA in hopes that a deeper understanding of their underlying disease pathogenesis will encourage the development of more effective treatments that can target distinct disease pathways with greater specificity while minimizing adverse effects.

Keywords: alopecia areata; central centrifugal; frontal fibrosing; lichen planopilaris; scarring hair loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Hair Follicle / immunology
  • Humans