Janus Kinase inhibitors, commonly known as JAK inhibitors, have been lauded as a potential hair loss cure. As they make their way through trials we take a closer look.
Why Would JAK Inhibitors Work?
Janus Kinase (JAK) is a family of enzymes your body uses to control its response to infections and wounds. They are part of a signaling system that triggers the reaction and engages the inflammatory and immune responses. The most common form of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia (better known to most as age-related hair loss), is believed to occur as part of an autoimmune reaction which sees the immune system begin to treat our hair as an enemy. Other, less common, forms of hair loss are directly attributed to issues with the immune system. The process involves a group of proteins called cytokanes, molecules which act as the workhorses of the immune system, enabling cells to communicate and receive instruction… to maybe move towards an area of inflammation for example.
Because hair loss is attributed to an immune system response, it was hypothesized that by interfering with the signaling between these cells that it might be possible to reduce, or even stop, hair loss. That theory triggered some serious research…
The first name we heard was ruxotilinib, it went into trial and results were apparently positive if uninspiring. Since then developments have been made based on the experience of trials aimed at improving outcomes, though not necessarily just measuring the amount of hair saved or grown. These early trials are typically aimed at proving not just efficacy but safety. One of the main issues they discovered was that a significant number developed an intolerance to the treatment. Improvements have been attempted and several forms of JAK Inhibitor are currently being worked on. One, fedratinib, is a great example of just how challenging this work can be. Despite encouraging results work was canceled when a small group, 8, out of the nearly 900 on the study developed a rare condition associated with thiamine (vitamin B1) depletion. Further examination of the study results would later reduce the number of the study group who suffered from the condition and today fedratinib has been acquired by another company, set up by the scientists who originally developed the treatment, clinical trials are anticipated to begin later this year. Like we said, challenging work.
HIS Hair Clinic
It seems ambitious, to play with the immune system in the hope that we can interfere, in a positive way for the client, with hair growth but somehow leave the rest of the endocrine system untouched. There is clearly something in the science around these signaling pathways but it may be that we are a few big discoveries away from being able to manipulate it to our advantage. Ruxotilinib and fedratinib are just two of many and we will continue to scour the news for updates on progress.
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