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This Common Drug Can Cure Baldness

Jun 21, 2014 03:35 PM EDT

No, this isn't an ad for some questionable salve or snake oil. Researchers claim that a novel treatment using a pre-existing arthritis drug can actually spur hair growth.

According to Yale University scientists, this new novel treatment option was crafted as a way to treat alopecia universalis - a disease that leaves its victims almost entirely bare of hair. The university reports that the results of experimental testing on a 25-year-old male patient mark the first successful targeted treatment of this disease in medical history.

"This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition," said researcher Brett A. King in a recent statement. "While it's one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this man based on our current understanding of the disease and the drug. We believe the same results will be duplicated in other patients, and we plan to try."

King is the senior author of a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology that details this success.

According to the study, the male study participant was placed on a daily regimen of 10 mg of tofacitinib citrate - a preexisting FDA-approved drug for rheumatoid arthritis.

After two months, the patient had grown scalp and facial hair. After eight months of treatment, the patient had experienced "full regrowth of hair" including eyebrows and eye lashes.

Most encouragingly, "the patient has reported feeling no side effects, and we've seen no lab test abnormalities, either," co-author Brittany Craiglow said.

Yet, the authors warn that people who are experiencing natural hair follicle loss would not see the same effects from this treatment. Alopecia universalis is caused by an unusual immune system attack on hair follicles, and tofacitinib appears to turn off this reaction without impacting standard function of the immune cells.

Animal and human tests have also revealed that this same drug treatment can potentially treat cases of a rare skin disorder as well. The team has applied to move onto clinical trials to test a cream form of tofacitinib to treat this condition - called alopecia areata.

The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on June 18.

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