Researchers stumble on drug that can reverse baldness

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Baldness could be a thing of the past thanks to a new drug shown to enhance hair growth.

Researchers from the University of Manchester’s Centre for Dermatology Research found the drug, originally designed as a treatment for osteoporosis, has a “dramatic stimulatory effect” on human hair follicles donated by patients undergoing hair transplantation surgery.

Currently only two drugs – minoxidil and finasteride – are available for treatment of male-pattern baldness. However, both drugs have moderate side effects and often produce disappointing hair regrowth results, the researchers said. The only other option available to patients is hair transplantation surgery.

The PhD project, led by Dr Nathan Hawkshaw, sought to develop new ways to promote human hair growth.

The researchers began by looking at the drug Cyclosporine A (CsA), which has been used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases for decades and has a number of side effects, one of which is hair growth.

Upon analysing the drug, the researchers found CsA reduces the protein SFRP1 in the body, which inhibits the growth of hair follicles.

After some detective work, Dr Hawkshaw found that a compound originally developed to treat osteoporosis, called WAY-316606, targets the same mechanism as CsA by specifically reducing SFRP1.

When he then treated hair follicles with WAY-316606, the compound worked like CsA to enhance human hair growth, but without the other side effects.

“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,” Dr Hawkshaw commented.

“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.”

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