Rodent models of human disease provide an important tool in the investigation of genetic and environmental activation factors, disease pathogenesis, and the development of new and improved treatments. Several inbred rodent models have been identified for Alopecia Areata (AA), a non-scarring inflammatory hair loss disease with suspected autoimmune elements. Up to 20% of C3H/HeJ mice and 70% of Dundee Experimental Bald Rats (DEBR) develop Alopecia Areata-like, patchy hair loss that may progress to universal alopecia.
Hair loss is associated with peri- and intra-follicular lymphocyte and macrophage inflammation, but no significant scarring. These two rodent models have been employed in examining the mechanisms involved in Alopecia Areata. Manipulation of inflammatory cells by selective in vivo cell depletion or transfer between affected and unaffected C3H/HeJ mice indicates Alopecia Areata is primarily a cell mediated disease. Successful induction of Alopecia Areata by skin graft transfer between affected and unaffected mice has been used to examine changes in gene expression within Alopecia Areata-affected skin using flow cytometry and gene array technology.
Rodents are now utilized to evaluate a variety of current treatments and for developing new therapies. The ability to follow the full course of Alopecia Areata throughout life including events prior to the onset of actual hair loss makes rodent models a considerable asset in AA research. The ability to induce Alopecia Areata-like disease with visible hair loss several weeks after surgery in the mouse Alopecia Areata model provides a consistent, controllable model for disease investigation and novel drug efficacy studies. Ultimately, animal models will be used to determine the genetic basis of Alopecia Areata, the potential endogenous and/or environmental trigger(s), the mechanism(s) of disease initiation and progression, and allow evaluation of new treatments.
There are benefits in using Rodent models in evaluating treatments and causes of Alopecia Areata. There is high hope that rodent models will continue to provide more valuable information on Alopecia Areata in the near future.