An osteoporosis medication, the immunosuppressant Cyclosporine A, is the latest drug to have potentially beneficial effects in the fight against hair loss
Researchers at Manchester University's Centre for Dermatology Research have been testing a formula known as WAY-316606 in a bid to boost hair growth and hope to develop it into a gel or shampoo-based product.
Two days to promote hair growth
Incredibly, the University's lab-based studies to date have produced almost immediate effects - something that has not previously been seen before, given the fact that current MHRA licensed and FDA approved hair loss treatments
work in line with the natural rhythm of the hair growth cycle
. This means that, depending on the severity, results often take at least three months from starting treatment to become noticeable
with more advanced cases often taking longer to respond.
According to the lead author of this new UK research, Dr. Nathan Hawkshaw, hair regrowth started within two days of ex-vivo treatment - however, clinical trials using human subjects have not yet started.
These results, published in the PLOS Biology journal
, showed that the drug was tested in a novel way over six days, using hair follicles donated by more than 40 hair transplant
'Through microarray analysis, we found that the level of the secreted Wnt inhibitor, SFRP1, was significantly reduced by Cyclosporine A. This inspired us to design a new pharmacological approach that uses WAY-316606, a reportedly well-tolerated and specific antagonist of SFRP1, to prolong the growth phase of the hair cycle. We show that WAY-316606 enhances human hair growth ex vivo, suggesting that it is a more targeted hair growth promoter with the potential to treat human hair loss disorders,' states the report. Continues below...
Hair growth changes documented during the University of Manchester trial showing control hairs versus those treated with WAY-316606
The donor hairs were treated with WAY-316606, a more tolerable form of topical Cyclosporine A which is a prescription medication currently available in oral or liquid form for the treatment of various health issues but which cannot be used alone to treat hair loss as it is considered toxic. This was found to suppress the Wnt inhibitor, SFRP1. In 2016, it was discovered that the Wnt pathway plays a critical role in hair growth
and, since then, has been being explored by many companies hoping to develop a product to encourage hair regrowth in people experiencing the genetic conditions Male Pattern Baldness
and Female Pattern Hair Loss.
“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
," says Dr. Hawkshaw.
“I’m very optimistic it could work. In lab tests, the drug started promoting growth in hair follicles in just two days that’s pretty quick
. 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.
Medical detective work
The only two clinically-proven pharmaceutical hair loss treatments were both discovered by accident - the topical medication was originally taken
as an oral tablet to treat high blood pressure, whilst the only oral male pattern hair loss treatment
was originally developed to treat enlarged prostates before its hair growth potential was spotted.
This is also the case for JAK inhibitors
- a developmental area currently at the forefront of hair regrowth innovation - can encourage hair restoration in people with both Androgenetic Alopecia and Alopecia Areata
, WAY-316606 was entirely calculated.
The British dermatology team actively explored drugs which had shown hair growth as a side effect, regardless of their actual application. This led them to Cyclosporine A which has been used to treat autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis - a shared similarity with the JAK inhibitor, tofacitinib
Whilst the hair follicles are an effective way of delivering medication, a shampoo can be problematic given it is not left on the scalp for very long and is generally diluted. This makes it less effective than other topical solutions which sink in to dry scalps over a period of no less than 20 minutes. Recently a shampoo claiming to reduce hair loss
was reprimanded and forced to drop this 'misleading' claim by the UK's Advertising Standards Agency. Dr. Hawkshaw acknowledges that if they do go down this route it is important that the product be able to reach the follicles in order for it to be effective.
New drug development - even where the medication has been approved for another condition previously - can take many years
in order to properly test its safety, tolerability and efficacy. So, whilst this new discovery is extremely exciting and opens up the scope for new ways of potentially preventing baldness
, anyone concerned by hairloss now is not advised to wait until novel solutions become available. Hereditary hair loss is both permanent and progressive so, for those wanting to try to keep or regrow their hair, taking advice on personalised options as soon as possible can be the wisest way to proceed.