Two newly approved cancer and arthritis drugs can be used in order to boost hair growth, it has recently been revealed.
The findings, published on October 23 in the journal Science Advances, resulted from an animal trial conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.
The two treatments which have been recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both work by inhibiting the activity of Janus kinase (JAK) enzymes.
One of the drugs, named tofacitinib (Xeljanz), is effective against rheumatoid arthritis, while the other, called ruxolitinib (Jakafi), helps treat intermediate or high-risk myelofibrosis, a rare type of bone marrow cancer.
Researchers applied JAK inhibitors as a topical solution, directly to the skin of laboratory mice, and discovered that the compounds help revive hair follicles, by activating stem cells and changing the usual pattern involved in hair growth.
Normally, skin structures from which hair emerges undergo a 4- stage cycle: anagen (when cells at the hair’s root divide rapidly and hair grows by 1 cm in 28 days), catagen (transition when growth stops and follicles shrink), telogen (resting phase) and exogen (when old hair is shed, and new one continues its growth).
When JAB inhibitors were used for a period of 5 days, laboratory mice experienced a significant acceleration in the hair growth phase, and sprouted hair in a matter of 10 days. Moreover, in just 3 weeks they regrew all their hair.
On the other hand, animals included in the control group experienced no hair growth during that trial period.
The potency of the two drugs was further tested using human hair follicles cultured in vitro, and by grafting human scalp tissue on lab mice. It was determined that the drugs remained effective in restoring hair growth.
“Not only can JAK inhibitors induce a new hair cycle in mouse skin, but also can extend an existing growth phase in human follicles, suggesting they may have a broader applicability across several different forms of hair loss”, concluded Dr. Angela Christiano, study lead author.
For instance, it appears that the new drugs might prove beneficial in combating male pattern baldness, which affects around half of the male population older than 50.
However, for now, experts have avoided issuing any bold statements regarding the significance of their research, preferring to simply say that results are “promising”.
Currently, follow-up research is being conducted, to design a drug formulation especially made for the scalp. The aim is to determine if this topical product might be effective in assisting patients suffering from alopecia areata, a condition in which the immune system wrongly attacks hair follicles.
Experts also wish to identify potential benefits associated with using these treatments for people affected by plaque psoriasis, a skin disease which causes painful, inflamed patches covered with silvery scales.
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