British researchers have discovered that a medicine against osteoporosis promotes hair growth. This could allow the production of a truly effective medication for baldness and give hope to men and women who suffer from it.
Today, to compensate for baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia, there are only 3 treatments: two drugs (minoxidil and finasteride) and hair transplantation. However, these two drugs available on the market are unsatisfactory and the side effects are important. Researchers at the University of Manchester in England have therefore looked into other ways to promote the growth of hair follicles, and they have indeed found an effective molecule! The results of their research appeared in the journal PLOS Biology.
The scientists began their research with the study of cyclosporin A (CsA). This drug is used during transplantation to prevent rejection, it is an immunosuppressant, and it has many side effects such as hair growth. Although this drug can not be used in the treatment of baldness, because too toxic for the body, this study was intended to know the exact action of CsA, to find another molecule that can act in the same way.
They discovered that CsA reduced the expression of SFRP1, a protein that inhibits the development of certain tissues including hair follicles. They also found that a drug originally developed to treat osteoporosis, whose active ingredient is WAY-316606, also targeted SFRP1 without causing the side effects of CsA. Tested on follicles in culture, WAY-316606 has been shown to be very effective in hair growth.
“Thanks to our collaboration with a local surgeon specialized in hair transplantation, Dr. Asim Shahmalak, we were able to conduct our experiments with hair follicles of the scalp that had been generously given by more than 40 patients and then tested in organ cultures,” says Dr. Hawkshaw. “This makes our research clinically very relevant because many hair research studies only use cell culture.”
This new therapeutic route will however have to be the subject of further studies, and of a clinical trial, before any hope of placing it on the market can be expected.