Hair loss sufferers around the world may finally have something to rejoice about, as a trial conducted by researchers at Columbia University has just produced very positive results from two new drugs which the scientists believe could be used treat baldness.
The drugs, ruxolitinib and tofaicitinib, are both janus kinase inhibitors or JAK inhibitors, which means they block the effects of janus kinase (JAK) enzymes in the body. The research team first discovered that tofaicitinib could be a potential treatment for alopecia areata when they were trialling the drug to treat plaque psoriasis and one of the test subjects happened to suffer from alopecia universalis – a related condition – as well. By the end of the trial, the subject had regrown a full head of hair.
What are JAK enzymes?
JAK enzymes are the enzymes inside the hair follicle that are responsible for those follicles remaining dormant during episodes of alopecia areata. Scientists believe that by blocking these enzymes, they can prevent the autoimmune reaction that causes hair loss in alopecia areata sufferers.
The trial was carried out by grafting human skin onto mice and using human hair follicles that had been grown in culture. The reason this was considered to be more effective than conducting a trial on human test subjects is that mice's hair growth is synchronised, so that all the hairs are in the same phase of the growth cycle at the same time, which makes it much easier to see the effects of any treatment.
The results were very promising, with the mice treated with the JAK inhibitors both showing significant and rapid hair regrowth over a ten day period when compared to the control mouse.
What could this mean for the future of hair loss problems?
Currently, the drugs are only under trial for the treatment of alopecia areata, although it has been mooted that they could also be used to treat alopecia androgenetica, or male or female pattern baldness.
Talking to the Daily Mail, Professor Angela Christiano, of Columbia University, said “What we’ve found is promising, though we haven’t yet shown it’s a cure for pattern baldness… More work needs to be done to test if JAK inhibitors can induce hair growth in humans using formulations specially made for the scalp.”
Both drugs will have to be approved by various governmental bodies before they can be released for public use, so there's a long road ahead, but the future looks bright.