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J Am Osteopath Assoc. 1991 Aug;91(8):765-71.

Cutaneous immunopathology of androgenetic alopecia.

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Department of Dermatology, Grandview Hospital Medical Center, Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dayton.


Male pattern baldness is assumed to result from a combination of normal serum concentrations of androgen and an appropriate genetic background. To study whether inflammation contributes to the development of androgenetic alopecia, direct immunofluorescence and dermatopathologic studies were performed on biopsy specimens from bald scalp of patients, with specimens from uninvolved scalp of these patients or from scalp of volunteers who were not bald serving as controls. Granular deposits of Immunoglobulin M or C3 (or both) were found at the basement membrane in 25 (96%) of 26 study patients and 1 (12%) of 8 control subjects. Granular C3 was also deposited on eccrine myoepithelial cells in 8 (31%) of 26 study patients, but no control subjects. Porphyrins were found in the pilosebaceous canal in 15 (58%) of 26 study subjects and in 1 (12%) of 8 control subjects. These results support an inflammatory pathogenesis of androgenetic alopecia. Propionibacterium acnes is known to produce porphyrins. Ultraviolet radiation may excite microbiologic porphyrins that could activate C3 and, subsequently, the complement cascade producing inflammatory mediators.

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