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Br J Dermatol. 1996 Dec;135(6):942-8.

Effects of interleukins, colony-stimulating factor and tumour necrosis factor on human hair follicle growth in vitro: a possible role for interleukin-1 and tumour necrosis factor-alpha in alopecia areata.

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Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Addenbrookes Hospital, London, U.K.


The immune system may be involved in the regulation of normal hair follicle growth as well as in the pathogenesis of some hair diseases. Immunomodulatory cytokines not only act as mediators of immunity and inflammation but also regulate cell proliferation and differentiation and, as such, may play an important part in regulating hair growth. We have investigated the effects of a number of interleukins (IL), colony stimulating factors and tumour necrosis factors (TNF) on hair follicle growth in vitro. Dose-response studies showed that IL-1 alpha, IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha were potent inhibitors of hair follicle growth. The histology of hair follicles maintained with inhibitory doses of IL-1 alpha, IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha showed similar changes in hair follicle morphology, resulting in the formation of dystrophic anagen hair follicles. These changes in histology were characterized by the condensation and distortion of the dermal papilla, marked vacuolation of the hair follicle matrix, abnormal keratinization of the follicle bulb and inner root sheath, disruption of follicular melanocytes and the presence of melanin granules within the dermal papilla. Moreover, these changes in hair follicle morphology are similar to those reported in alopecia areata and suggest that IL-1 alpha, IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha may play an important part in the pathophysiology of inflammatory hair disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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