Scientists discover 'cure for baldness'
A cure for baldness could be on the horizon after British scientists discovered that an osteoporosis drug stimulates hair growth three times quicker than other drugs.
Around four in 10 men suffer male pattern baldness by the age of 45 and two thirds by the age of 60.
At the moment only two drugs, minoxidil and finasteride, are available for the treatment of male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) - the classic type of receding hair loss in men.
But both have side effects and often produce disappointing results. The only other option open to patients losing their hair is transplantation surgery.
To find a new treatment, scientists at Manchester University first studied a cancer drug called CsA, which has the embarrassing side-effect of substantial unwanted hair growth.
They discovered the hair growth happens because the drug reduces the activity of a protein called SFRP1, which prevents the growth of hair follicles.
Although CsA itself is not suitable as a baldness treatment because of its extreme side-effects, scientists found that a drug previously designed to treat osteoporosis, called WAY-316606, was even better at targeting the hair-suppressing protein.
In tests, follicles donated by more than 40 patients undergoing hair transplant surgery were treated with the drug and and quickly went into the active phase of hair growth, sprouting 2mm of hair within just six days.
Lead scientist Dr Nathan Hawkshaw said: “The drug also maintained more hair follicles to stay within the growth phase of the hair cycle compared to control. Not only this, we show that this drug effectively enhances hair shaft keratin production.
“Collectively this suggests that WAY-316606 could be an effective therapeutic option for treating human hair growth disorders.
“CsA takes at least six days to enhance human hair growth ex vivo whereas we see a significant increase in hair growth after two days with WAY-316606.
“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.”
The research also explains why CsA so often induces undesired hair growth in patients as it removes an inbuilt and potent molecular brake on human hair growth.
The research was published in the journal Plos Biology.