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Arthritis drug helps bald man grow full head of hair

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

A Connecticut man, who was left completely hairless by a genetic condition, was able to grow a lustrous head of hair after taking a certain drug. 

Kyle Rhodes, of Killingworth, was bald. That is until he paid a visit to Dr. Brett King at the Yale School of Medicine last summer.

"Kyle was referred to me for the treatment of his psoriasis," King said. "When I met him I immediately realized that he had, also in addition to psoriasis, alopecia universalis."

Alopecia universalis is an autoimmune form of hair loss that affects all hair on a person's body right down to their eyelashes. There are about 6.5 million people here in the United States who have to live with it. 

At 2 years old, Kyle was diagnosed with alopecia areata and patches of his hair started falling out. By age 18, Rhodes had lost most of his hair.

"But at the time that I had met him," King said. "He was only growing hair in areas where he had psoriasis."

King put Rhodes on an FDA-approved drug Tofasitinb Citrate, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is another autoimmune disorder.

One month later, hair was coming out of every follicle in Rhodes' scalp.

"It was just, it was totally dramatic and amazing to see," King said.

King showed pictures of the progress to Eyewitness News.

"At his second-month visit he said, 'oh I have to start shaving again,'" King said. 

Eight months later, Rhodes had a full and lustrous head of hair.

"I've gotten a lot of comments about how my hair's coming in," Rhodes said. "I find myself a lot of times just playing with it."

Many around the world are calling this a breakthrough in medical history.

"Now we have a brand new tool, and that tool may permit us to very directly turn off this process," King said.

Just last week, the Yale Institutional Review Board gave Dr. King its stamp of approval for a "first-of-its-kind" clinical trial that's now underway.

"It's moving at light speed," King said.

King said he doesn't believe this drug will help treat male pattern hair loss, but added it's worth looking into.

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