AUG 08, 2018 5:06 AM PDT

Old Drug Offers Novel Treatment For Hair Loss

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

According to researchers from The University of Manchester's Centre for Dermatology Research, a recent developed drug may serve as the key to treating human baldness. Gone may be the days where hair loss surgery is necessary. The drug, originally designed to treat osteoporosis, has exhibited dramatic stimulatory effects on hair follicles by patients undergoing hair transplantation surgery. At the present moment, only two drugs are available for treating baldness and they are male-specific (androgentic alopecia). However, because these two drugs, minoxidil and finasteride, hold some side-effects and have disappointing hair regrowth results, affected individuals are often considered for hair transplantation surgery.

The research study, which was led by Dr. Nathan Hawkshaw and colleagues, were eager to develop other options to promote human hair growth with the intentions of seeking novel treatments that are well tolerated for androgenetic alopecia. The study first examined the molecular mechanisms behind an old immunosuppressive drug known as Cyclosporine A (CsA); a critical drug of the 1980s commonly used to suppress transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases to patients undergoing specific surgical procedures. Although that drug held side-effects, one most unique was the enhancement of cosmetically unwanted hair growth, this encouraged the research team to analyze full gene expression on isolated CSA-treated human scalp hair follicles. The analysis revealed that CsA reduced the expression of SFRP1, which is a protein that blocks the development and growth of many tissues, most importantly are hair follicles. Such discovery promoted researchers to discover a novel mechanism of CsA.

 The human hair follicle bulb. Credit: Dr. Nathan John Hawkshaw

After some investigation, Dr. Hawkshaw and the research team found that a compound, known as WAY-316606, developed to treat osteoporosis was also found to target the same molecular mechanism as CsA specifically antagonizing SFRP1. When hair follicles were treated with WAY-316606, the unrelated compound enhanced human hair growth. Surprisingly, there exists similar compounds to WAY-316606 that can promote better hair growth either the same magnitude or better than CsA and without the side-effects. Dr. Hawkshaw explains, "When the hair growth-promoting effects of CsA were previously studied in mice, a very different molecular mechanism of action was suggested; had we relied on these mouse research concepts, we would have been barking up the wrong tree. The fact this new agent, which had never even been considered in a hair loss context, promotes human hair growth is exciting because of its translational potential: it could one day make a real difference to people who suffer from hair loss. Clearly though, a clinical trial is required next to tell us whether this drug or similar compounds are both effective and safe in hair loss patients."


Source: University of Manchester


About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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