Researchers reported that drugs developed to fight cancer and rheumatoid arthritis might work as creams to stimulate hair growth.
Although treatments are generally associated with hair loss, some specialized drugs call JAK inhibitors can actually help hair grow.
Researchers at Columbia University have been testing JAK inhibitors as treatments for a rare form of hair loss called alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is a condition caused by the immune system’s mistaken attack on hair follicles. The drugs work by suppressing inappropriate immune responses which is why they help rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of blood cancer that involve immune cells.
The drug was found to affect the hair follicles directly. The compound that the drugs suppress, puts hairs into a “resting” stage. The inhibitors allow the hair to enter the hair cycle.
When the compound was rubbed onto the skin of bald mice for five days new hair sprouted within 10 days. The hair grew back must faster and more robustly than it did orally.
Unfortunately, because JAK inhibitors suppress the immune system which leaves patients vulnerable to infections, it would be dangerous to use them to correct something cosmetic, like male pattern baldness.
However, applying the drugs topically could be safer. Applying the drugs directly to the skin also seems to get more of the drugs into the hair follicles.
Columbia University has filed patent applications relating to the discoveries reported which are been commercialized through Vixen Pharmaceuticals.
One of the reasons it is difficult to develop drugs for hair is because hair cannot be grown in a petri dish. There also isn’t a good rat or mouse model of male pattern baldness.
All the drugs on the market to grow hair were discovered by accident. Propencia was found to grow hair as a side-effect of treating enlarged prostates, and Latisse, sold to grow eyelashes, was discovered as a side-effect of a glaucoma treatment.