A drug originally developed for treating osteoporosis, but largely disregarded due to side effects, is attracting attention due to one of those side effects… that it causes patients to sprout hair. We look closer.
University Of Manchester
A team based at one of the UK’s leading universities have been taking another look at an old drug. Cyclosporine A (CsA) is in use today as a drug that suppresses transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases, but it is one that comes with significant side effects… among which was the development of “unwanted” hair growth.
The team, led by Dr. Nathan Hawkshaw, decided to take a closer look at CsA, in the hope that they could develop an effective and well-tolerated hair loss treatment. The first step on their journey was to identify the precise molecular mechanisms and attempt to identify exactly what was triggering the hair growth.
Dr. Hawkshaw’s team carried out a full gene expression analysis on isolated scalp hair follicles that had been treated with CsA. They discovered exactly why they saw hair growing on patients, it was due to the CsA removing a powerful brake on hair growth. By reducing the expression of a protein called SFRP1 which inhibits the development of several types of tissue, including hair follicles. Importantly, this aspect of the function of CsA was completely unrelated to its abilities as an immunosuppressant. This meant that they needed to look around for another compound that could target a reduction of SFRP1. After some research, they identified just such a compound. WAY-316606 was originally developed to treat osteoporosis and specifically targetted the SFRP1 protein. When they tested scalp hair follicles treated with WAY-316606 they saw the same results as seen with the CsA. Dr. Hawkshaw suggested the compound might be just as effective, or even better than the CsA and without any of the side effects.
Earlier studies on the hair growth potential for CsA had used mice to research the concepts. It would prove misleading as the molecular mechanism discovered by Dr. Hawkshaw and his team would turn out to be completely different. This, in turn, meant his results were as surprising as they were welcome. In Dr. Hawkshaw’s own words “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.”
HIS Hair Clinic
Little or nothing was said about just how much hair was sprouted during these laboratory tests. So we do not yet know whether we are looking at another minoxidil type level of outcome, or something altogether more exciting. We live in hope. We can be encouraged that this research was performed at a highly regarded university and that the proposed treatment is topical. This means the series of hurdles that need to be cleared in regards to clinical trials is far less daunting. By which we mean cheaper and quicker.
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