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Mice Lacking Gene Develop Alopecia Areata and Cancers

Mice lacking one copy of FHIT tumor suppressor gene undergo spontaneous alopecia areata and develop precancerous lesions

THURSDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Mice lacking one copy of a tumor suppressor gene are prone to alopecia areata and precancerous lesions, according to a report published online May 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Silvio De Flora, M.D., from the University of Genoa in Italy, and colleagues studied two strains of mice -- B6/129 F1 and a strain predisposed to lung cancer -- that were either wild-type or heterozygous for the FHIT tumor suppressor gene. The mice were treated with benzo(a)pyrene to cause tumors.

The researchers found that benzo(a)pyrene caused forestomach tumors in both strains of mice, regardless of whether they were wild-type or heterozygous for FHIT. However, the B6/129 F1 mice underwent spontaneous alopecia areata with death of hair bulb cells, which occurred more rapidly in the FHIT heterozygous mice, or after treatment with benzo(a)pyrene. The FHIT heterozygous mice also had more preneoplastic lesions of the uterus. Treating B6/129 F1 mice with budesonide or N-acetyl-L-cysteine inhibited alopecia areata as well as benzo(a)pyrene-induced forestomach tumors and precancerous lesions of the respiratory tract, according to the study.

"In conclusion, heterozygosity for FHIT affects susceptibility of mice to spontaneous alopecia areata and benzo(a)pyrene-induced preneoplastic lesions of the uterus and does not alter responsiveness to budesonide and N-acetyl-L-cysteine," De Flora and colleagues write.

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