A side effect of a drug which was initially used as an immunosuppressant might one day be used to treat baldness.
Researchers have discovered that the active compound stimulates hair follicles to grow by targeting a protein which usually puts the breaks on. They published their results in the journal Plos Biology and now hope that it can be developed into a form which could be used to treat alopecia.
According to a statement by the University of Manchester’s Dr. Nathan Hawkshaw, who co-authored the study:
“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 drug was initially designed to treat transplant patients, suppress transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases. Officially known as Cyclosporine A (CsA), it’s been commonly used since the 1980s, and does, unluckily, have many side effects. One of the least severe – but most interesting – of those is the fact that it might sometimes cause unwanted hair growth.
The researchers initially tried to figure out the molecular mechanism of the drug. Then, they carried out a full gene expression analysis of individual human hair follicles, donated by people undergoing hair transplants, that had been treated with CsA. They managed to demonstrate that the drug inhibited a particular gene, SFRP1, that has in previous studies been shown to slow down or stop the growth of tissues, most significantly including hair follicles.
If that could be developed into an effective treatment, then it could have a crucial impact on those who suffer from hair loss, which for many can lead to psychological and mental distress. Treatment is insufficient at the moment, with patients either having to take one of two drugs – minoxidil and finasteride – or go under the knife and get a hair transplant. While the latter is frequently quite successful, it is pretty invasive, while the two drugs often have mixed results.
“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,” Dr. Hawkshaw points out. However, for those who suffer from hair loss, knowing that new avenues are opening to explore a potential remedy will be a relief.
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