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Serum Zinc May Be Useful Marker With Alopecia

by | Aug 2, 2015 | Clinical Diagnostic Insider, Diagnostic Testing and Emerging Technologies

Zinc appears to be a useful marker in assessing prognosis with the hair-loss condition alopecia areata (AA). Both newly diagnosed patients and patients with treatment resistant AA have lower serum zinc levels, compared to nonaffected controls, according to a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology. Among patients with AA, lower levels of zinc are tied to disease duration, severity of AA, and resistance to therapies. While the exact role zinc plays in the pathogenesis of AA is unknown, zinc is a trace element involved in important functional activities of hair follicles. AA is thought to be an autoimmune disease characterized by hair loss. Serum zinc levels were assessed in patients with newly diagnosed AA (n=25; diagnosis within one to three months), resistant AA (n=25) and in 50 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Participants with resistant AA had the condition for at least six months duration (actual range disease duration ranging from 6 to 30 months) and received three or more common therapies without success. AA severity was assessed using a previously validated tool. Venous blood samples (three mL fasting for six to eight hours) were taken from each participant. Serum levels of zinc were evaluated using the colorimetric […]

Zinc appears to be a useful marker in assessing prognosis with the hair-loss condition alopecia areata (AA). Both newly diagnosed patients and patients with treatment resistant AA have lower serum zinc levels, compared to nonaffected controls, according to a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology. Among patients with AA, lower levels of zinc are tied to disease duration, severity of AA, and resistance to therapies.

While the exact role zinc plays in the pathogenesis of AA is unknown, zinc is a trace element involved in important functional activities of hair follicles. AA is thought to be an autoimmune disease characterized by hair loss.

Serum zinc levels were assessed in patients with newly diagnosed AA (n=25; diagnosis within one to three months), resistant AA (n=25) and in 50 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Participants with resistant AA had the condition for at least six months duration (actual range disease duration ranging from 6 to 30 months) and received three or more common therapies without success. AA severity was assessed using a previously validated tool. Venous blood samples (three mL fasting for six to eight hours) were taken from each participant. Serum levels of zinc were evaluated using the colorimetric method (with a spectrophotometer wavelength 560 nm) and 60 to 110 μg/dl was considered a normal value.

The researchers found significantly lower serum zinc levels in all patients with AA compared with controls, but significantly lower levels were also seen in patients with resistant AA versus patients with newly diagnosed AA. Highly significant inverse correlations were found between serum zinc level and severity of AA and disease duration in all patients as well as in patients with resistant AA. No statistically significant differences were found between mean serum zinc level and sex or between patients younger or older than 25 years of age. Similarly, no differences between zinc levels were seen by hair loss characteristics (scalp hair loss, body hair loss negative and positive, and number of patches one, two, multiple, and alopecia totalis).

“Serum zinc level may be a useful marker of disease severity and duration in AA, and zinc supplements may have beneficial therapeutic effect,” write the authors led by Nermeen S. A. Abdel Fattah, M.D., from Shams University in Egypt. “Although the association between low serum zinc levels and AA does not confirm that it plays a role in the pathogenesis of AA, its significantly lower levels in patients with resistant AA could suggest that low zinc levels may have a possible role in resistance, as zinc is important in helping hair regrowth.”

Takeaway: Metabolomic profiles in serum may be useful in screening women for early- stage ovarian cancer. While further validation in larger populations is necessary, the researchers say a clinical assay based on the 16 markers is technically feasible.

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