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Possible Cure For Baldness Found In Osteoporosis Drug

May 09, 2018 07:55 AM EDT
A drug used to treat osteoporosis turns out to have a potentially wonderful side effect: a cure to baldness. If it holds up in clinical trials, this discovery could be the key in treating hair loss for men and women.
(Photo : Patrik Stollarz | AFP/Getty Images)

Scientists discover that the secret of curing baldness just might lie in a drug that's meant to treat a different condition.

Male pattern baldness is a tough pill to swallow, but now there's hope of an elixir for it in the future.

A new study reveals that researchers from the University of Manchester's Centre for Dermatology Research were able to find an osteoporosis drug that offers a stimulatory effect on human hair follicles, according to a report from Eurekalert.

The First Attempt

Nathan Hawkshaw and his colleagues started by studying the immunosuppressive drug Cyclosporine A or CsA, which is used to suppress transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases. It has a host of side effects, including the enhancement of cosmetically unwanted hair growth.

The team's experiments revealed that CsA curbs SFRP1, a protein that keeps various tissues like hair follicles from growing and developing.

Additionally, CsA also removes a built-in molecular inhibition on human hair growth.

However, CaA's severe side effects other than a boost in hair growth make it an unappealing choice.

Another Drug Offers A Better Solution

Hawkshaw was prompted to look for another option that's safer for balding patients to take. A second compound, WAY-316606, gave him the answer.

Originally designed to treat osteoporosis, WAY-316606 was also found to target SFRP1 and enhance human hair growth. It also is able to do so without the negative side effects that CsA brings.

The research was achieved with donated scalp hair follicles from more than 40 patients.

"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," Hawkshaw says. "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."

Two drugs are currently known to treat male-pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia: minoxidil and finasteride. However, the side effects and unsatisfactory regrowth results make these drugs a mediocre option for people who want their hair back.

This leaves hair transplant surgery as the only reliable option, until now.

A spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists calls the study interesting in a statement to BBC. After all, he says, baldness can cause emotional distress in individuals.

"That said, more research will need to be done before it can be used by people with hair loss," he adds, saying that treatments for baldness are often hit and miss. "There isn't one which is universally effective. For that reason, new treatments are exciting as they give people more treatment options that may be effective."

The study was published on Tuesday, May 8. It's available in the open access journal Plos Biology.

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