Haifa researchers have found a non-genetic cause for alopecia areata baldness, which triggered the surprising incident at the the 94th Academy Awards in which actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock after he joked about Smiths wife’s shaved head because of the autoimmune disease.

About one person in 50 – equally in men and women –will suffer from alopecia areata at some point in their life. The condition can develop at any age, although most people are diagnosed for the first time before the age of 30. In recent years, more and more research evidence has accumulated on the source of the autoimmune disease in an inflammatory process caused by cells that develop in patients with genetic predisposition that attack the hair follicle at its growth stage and results in the collapse of the immune system that characterizes it.

But a new study at the dermatology department at the Rambam Healthcare Campus and the skin research lab at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine has found evidence of another source – involvement of innate lymphoid cells-type 1 (ILC1) – that can cause its outbreak among people who do not belong to the high-risk group.

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