UKZN Dean Honoured for Ground-Breaking Research on Hair Loss

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Dean and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine at the College of Health Sciences, Professor Ncoza Dlova, has been recognised for her research on hair loss in African women.

In the past two weeks, Dlova received two certificates of recognition from the Durban Chamber of Commerce and from AfricaBio.

‘Dlova’s research work epitomises that of a true world-class clinical researcher providing opportunities for clinical development – we applaud her for driving African research to a global arena – we are extremely proud of her,’ said AfricaBio President, Dr Nhlanhla Msomi.

Through her global collaborative work with several scientists, Dlova – an internationally renowned dermatologist – has helped identify a new gene that is a major cause of permanent hair loss among women of African descent. The scientists discovered the root cause of Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA), one of the most common causes of primary scarring alopecia in African women.

The ground-breaking study, titled: Variant PAD13 in Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA), was published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, a high impact medical science publication.

‘Professor Dlova’s awards came in recognition of her global collaborative work with several scientists who identified a new gene that is a major cause of permanent hair loss in women of African descent,’ said Chief Marketing Officer at the Chamber, Ms Taweni Gondwe-Xaba at the 163 Annual Gala Awards held in Durban. ‘We appreciate her efforts and contribution towards this ground-breaking work which is the first to establish a genetic basis for the vexing cause of alopecia.’

Her research is regarded as probably the biggest breakthrough in South African dermatology because it has huge implications for early diagnosis, prevention and possible future targeted therapy of CCCA.

This discovery is a first in the world, and it followed links to an earlier publication in 2013 in which, it was reported for the first time that a familial association existed in a cluster of Black South African families with CCCA.

This study found that the peptidylarginine deiminase 3 (PAD13) gene – which mediates posttranslational modification of proteins essential for proper hair shaft formation – was mutated in the majority of affected patients, suggesting that the disease is genetically heterogeneous. The scientists also found that the distinct variants in PADI3 in each of the disorders may account for the difference in clinical outcomes.

Congratulating Dlova for yet another achievement, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences Professor Busisiwe Ncama said, ‘She is not only a great asset to the University, but an asset to the community at large.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photographs: Supplied