Health & Wellbeing

FDA-approved drugs show promise for rapid and robust hair regrowth

FDA-approved drugs show promis...
Scientists have found that by suppressing the activity of enzymes in hair follicles, they may be able to treat certain types of hair loss
Scientists have found that by suppressing the activity of enzymes in hair follicles, they may be able to treat certain types of hair loss
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Within three weeks, mice treated with the enzyme inhibitors had regrown nearly all their hair (the drugs were applied to only the right side of the mice)
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Within three weeks, mice treated with the enzyme inhibitors had regrown nearly all their hair (the drugs were applied to only the right side of the mice)
Scientists have found that by suppressing the activity of enzymes in hair follicles, they may be able to treat certain types of hair loss
2/2
Scientists have found that by suppressing the activity of enzymes in hair follicles, they may be able to treat certain types of hair loss

Other than costly transplants, underperforming creams and less-than-convincing wigs and combovers, those experiencing hair loss aren't exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to addressing fading follicles. Over the years science has teased us with a number of promising developments, but none have yet evolved into market-ready saviours the bare-bonced among us are waiting for. New research suggests that a solution be on the horizon, however, with scientists discovering that blocking certain enzyme activity can treat certain kinds of hair loss, with bald mice treated in this way sprouting new hair within 10 days.

Last year, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center were looking at potential treatments for alopecia areata (aka spot baldness), an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. The team was exploring the potential of drugs that inhibit a family of enzymes known as Janus Kinase (JAK) in hair follicles, finding that the drugs served to turn off the signal that triggers an autoimmune attack, and that when administered orally it could restore hair growth in some subjects.

But the research produced one other interesting result. Dr Angela Christiano realized that when the drug was applied to the skin, rather than orally or through other means, it more effectively promoted hair growth, suggesting that the JAK drugs where somehow directly interacting with the hair follicles in addition to preventing an autoimmune attack.

In its latest work, the team has filled in the blanks on its previous findings, establishing that the JAK inhibitors reawaken the hair follicles from their resting state. This mimics part of a natural process where hair follicles alternate between active and dormant phases. Normally the JAK family of enzymes places the follicles into this resting state. Therefore, by suppressing its activity, the drugs enable the hair stuck in this sleeping state to re-enter the active part of the cycle.

Within three weeks, mice treated with the enzyme inhibitors had regrown nearly all their hair (the drugs were applied to only the right side of the mice)
Within three weeks, mice treated with the enzyme inhibitors had regrown nearly all their hair (the drugs were applied to only the right side of the mice)

Applying the JAK drugs to the skin of bald mice over five days saw them grow new hair within 10 days, while the control group that went untreated remained bald. After three weeks of treatment, the researchers say the mice had regrown almost all of their hair. The approach also proved effective in producing longer hair from human hair follicles grown in culture.

"There aren’t many compounds that can push hair follicles into their growth cycle so quickly," says. Christiano. "Some topical agents induce tufts of hair here and there after a few weeks, but very few compounds have this potent an effect so quickly."

The two drugs used in the study are already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, one for the treatment of blood diseases and the other for rheumatoid arthritis. While the researchers say it is likely they will act on the same pathways in humans as they do in mice, it is not yet known whether it will translate to a treatment for pattern baldness in time for Donald Trump's run to the White House.

"What we’ve found is promising, though we haven’t yet shown it’s a cure for pattern baldness," says Christiano. "More work needs to be done to test if JAK inhibitors can induce hair growth in humans using formulations specially made for the scalp."

The scientists say they have already begun research in this area with clinical trials underway for the two drugs for treatment of plaque psoriasis and alopecia areata.

The teams findings were published in the journal Science Advances.

You can hear from Christiano in the video below.

Source: Columbia University

Blocking Enzymes in Hair Follicles Promotes Hair Growth

21 comments
Scion
This is one of those unfortunate side effects of a market driven research economy. I'd think it more valuable to understand that we are all born different and some people lose their hair while others don't. It doesn't mean those that lose their hair are inferior and clearly they are not less attractive as many cultural sex symbols and idols of masculinity are lacking in hair (some even shave their head on purpose). We could then put more money and effort into more humanly valuable research. Well at least people with MS / diabetes / cancer / alzheimers etc will have a full head of hair.
CAVUMark
If it works for Angela it will work for me. Sign me up.
JeffMH1985
Sorry Scion, but your comment is naive at best.
Studies like these lead to treatments, that provide revenue streams, that fund many other research projects with less profit potential.
Furthermore, to discount hair loss as being a trivial disorder, unworthy of concern, is insulting to any man, woman or child suffering with hair loss.
I am not bald, or overweight, but I still have the emotional capacity to understand how much what they are going through hurts them, and how looking in the mirror can be depression inducing. So yeah, this is not the cure for cancer, but that does not mean it does not important and does not have the potential to improve millions of lives in a substantial way.
Simon
Columbia might not have been the first to discover this. In wikipedia checking Tofacitinib - who the heck comes up with these names BTW -
"In June 2014, scientists at Yale successfully treated a male patient afflicted with alopecia universalis. The patient was able to grow a full head of hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, facial, armpit, pubic, and other hair. No side effects were reported in the study.[15]"
oldguy
I used to worry about my bald head. Was it losing me work? Was I perceived as ugly or old? After a run in with cancer I grew up a bit. Im lucky to be 'this side of the grass' walking about. I don't care so much about baldness. Just wear sunscreen is my best advice!
Paul Anthony
I can hear the commercial voice over now rapidly speaking, "side affects may include shrinkage of the penis, erectile disfunction..." And so you get more attractive then... Oh the irony!
PeterNorton
Anything "FDA approved" is suspect. Fooling around with the body's enzyme system is stupidity/cupidity to the max. You want to help your hair? Try biotin. It takes awhile, but it's natural to the body. My advice is to avoid ANY product produced and hustled by Big Pharma. Profit is their *only* goal.
REJMD
The few published human case reports for these drugs in hair loss are for alopecia areata, and its more severe form, alopecia universalis. These autoimmune conditions are completely different diseases from common pattern baldness. The lifetime risk for alopecia areata in humans is less than 2%, and alopecia totalis or universalis are much less frequent.
There are no human studies of these drugs on androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness, the most common cause of human hair loss. Their effectiveness for this condition is doubtful, since the cause is different.
The price for ruxolitinib, per goodrx.com, is $4280 - 11,447, depending on dose, for a 30 day supply. By comparison, the wholesale price for tofacitinib is a bargain, at only $2055 monthly, according to Forbes magazine. Neither is FDA approved for treatment of hair loss. Good luck getting your insurance company to pay for either drug.
Other treatments for alopecia areata are usually effective, much cheaper, and safer. AA also often resolves spontaneously.
ED Ortiz
Leave it to the drug companies to invent a drug you have to take for life just to have your hair back. Although extremely expensive, at least a transplant is a one time deal. Not a permanent drain on one's wallet for life. Of course only the wealthiest people in America will be able to afford this drug. What a bunch of crooks.
owlbeyou
@Paul Anthony
That commercial voice-over disclaimer rapidly being said, with the happy-music background, at the end of those ads for some new drug always make me laugh. Are people really fooled into accepting this soft-sell?
Oooh yeah.
And those original but weird drug names they give them also crack me up.
Ricinofilactol anyone?