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Old osteoporosis drug could be used to treat hair loss

Published on 09/05/18 at 10:20am

Researchers from the University of Manchester’s Centre for Dermatology Research have made a breakthrough towards the holy grail of the cosmetic pharmaceutical market – a treatment for hair loss.

The team found that a drug developed to treat osteoporosis was able to enhance hair growth in the laboratory.

The search to find the treatment began by researching Cyclosporine A (CsA), an immunosuppressive drug that was commonly noted to result in the undesired side-effect of increased hair growth.

It was discovered that the reason for this was because the drug reduced the expression of a particular protein, SFRP1, which is known to prevent growth of tissues, including hair follicles.

Working backwards, the team then had to find a compound that could also inhibit this protein without the immunosuppressive effects of CsA. The team landed on a compound known as WAY-316606, which had been developed initially to treat osteoporosis.

Lead Researcher, Dr Nathan Hawkshaw, commented, “When the hair growth-promoting effects of CsA were previously studied in mice, a very different molecular mechanism of action was suggested; had we relied on these mouse research concepts, we would have been barking up the wrong tree. 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.”

He added, “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.”

In order to confirm their findings, the team applied the compound to scalp hair follicles, donated by recipients of hair transplants, which were then tested in organ cultures and the results showed increased hair growth.

The findings open up the possibility for adding the compound to shampoos so that the it can be applied only to hair follicles, mitigating any need to take an oral pill or for undesired, non-topical effects.

Ben Hargreaves

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