New treatment for hair loss inspired from old drug

A potential new treatment for hair loss could come from a drug originally designed as a treatment for osteoporosis.

The study published on the 8th May in the journal PLOS Biology showed the drug had a dramatic stimulatory effect on human hair follicles.

The discovery from a group of researchers at the University of Manchester have uncovered an entirely new way to promote human hair growth compared to other existing treatments on the market. As with many other drug discoveries it has been the result of a side effect of another drug.

In the early 70’s a drug called Cyclosporine (CsA) was discovered, and by the 80’s it was approved for use in organ transplantation. One of the side effects of this medication is increased hair growth. Unfortunately, CsA is not a harmless drug and as a result could not be used solely to treat hair loss.

Dr Hawkshaw and colleagues discovered the specific mechanism in the drug that seemed to be affecting hair growth. The study found CsA reduced the expression of SFRP1, a protein that negatively regulates a key pathway crucial for the growth of hair follicles. So, suppressing this protein seemed to explain how CsA enhanced hair growth.

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 antagonising SFRP1.

When he then treated hair follicles with WAY-316606, the unrelated agent also effectively enhanced human hair growth like CsA.

The external application of WAY-316606 or similar compounds to balding human scalp, he argued, may promote hair growth to the same magnitude as CsA or even better, but without its side effects.

Dr Hawkshaw said “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.”

 

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