KZN professor discovers gene responsible for hair loss in African women

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Women often put great effort into their appearance. Trying to keep up with the latest trends in order to look and feel good about themselves.

But what happens when a woman starts losing her hair? Hair loss in women often has an affect on their confidence.

Did you know a professor from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has discovered a newly identified gene which might be the cause of hair loss in women of African descent?

Professor Ncoza Dlova is an internationally renowned dermatologist who, alongside her team of scientists, conducted a study from 2013 to 2017.

During the study, Professor Dlova and her team recruited several patients with Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) from both Durban and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

CCCA is defined as hair loss which begins from the central part of the scalp and works its way outward in a circular pattern. CCCA also destroys hair follicles, which in turn results in scarring and permanent hair loss.

Over the years, this condition has left people at a loss. Many thinking chemical products, heat brushes, hot combs or straighteners to be responsible. At times, the issue is also mistaken for female pattern hair loss which is an entirely different problem.

With the root of the problem now found, in a statement issued by UKZN, Professor Dlova says, “This is probably the biggest breakthrough in South African Dermatology.”

Furthermore, she says this discovery is a first in the world. She explains it follows links to an earlier publication from 2013, where she reported for the first time a familial association in a cluster of black families for five years. Now, seven years later, a gene is identified.

The study, which is named Variant PAD13 in Central Centrifugal Alopecia, find the gene: Peptidylarginine deiminase 3 (PAD13), which helps mature proteins for proper hair growth, was mutated in the majority of the affected patients.

While further studies are required, research suggests PAD13 mutations predispose individuals to CCCA. This presents itself or is triggered by environmental practices, which can be found in certain hair grooming practices, such as heat, braids, weaves and the use of chemicals.

However, Professor Dlova says the study has huge implications, especially on early diagnosis, prevention and possible treatment of CCCA.

With a KZN based professor and her team making this inspiring discovery, the lives of scores of women are sure to be changed for the better.

Well done to Professor Dlova and her team.

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