Washington: British scientists identified a drug, originally designed as a treatment for osteoporosis, that could treat human hair loss.
A study published in the latest open access journal PLOS Biology, showed that the drug named WAY-316606 had 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 balding (androgenetic alopecia), Xinhua reported citing researchers from the University of Manchester's Centre for Dermatology Research.
However, both agents have moderate side effects and often produce disappointing hair regrowth results. The only other option available to patients is hair transplantation surgery.
A new approach was to explore the molecular mechanisms of an old immunosuppressive drug, Cyclosporine A (CsA), commonly used as a crucial drug that suppresses transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases.
But it often has severe side-effects, the least serious of which is that it enhances cosmetically unwanted hair growth.
The team carried out a full gene expression analysis of isolated human scalp hair follicles treated with CsA, revealing that CsA reduces the expression of SFRP1, a protein that inhibits the development and growth of many tissues, including hair follicles.
This identified a completely novel mechanism of action of this old and widely used drug.
They found that CsA often induced undesired hair growth in patients as it removed an inbuilt and potent molecular brake on human hair growth.
Then, Nathan Hawkshaw, a research Associate at The University of Manchester, and his colleague found that a compound originally developed to treat osteoporosis, called WAY-316606, targeted the same mechanism as CsA by specifically antagonising SFRP1.
When he treated hair follicles with the drug, the unrelated agent also effectively enhanced human hair growth like CsA.
The external application of WAY-316606 or similar compounds to balding human scalp may promote hair growth to the same magnitude as CsA or even better, but without its side effects, according to Hawkshaw.
"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," said Hawkshaw.
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