A team of researchers from the University of Manchester found that a drug, which is currently used to treat brittle bones, has one curious side-effect — it grows hair. The drug, which was originally intended for osteoporosis, induced hair follicles to start sprouting hair within two days when applied like a shampoo.
It's called WAY-316606, and aside from helping those with brittle bones, this drug could soon help millions of men grow back their hair. It can do so in as early as two days, too, as the team led by Dr. Nathan Hawkshaw discovered this interesting property of the osteoporosis drug.
Their research is now published in Public Library of Science Biology, and the team is now considering a clinical trial for hair loss patients.
"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," Hawkshaw said.
Experts are excited about the treatment that can be used as a topical treatment, in gel or shampoo form. The drug has been tested over six days on hair and scalp tissue donated by 40 patients that were currently undergoing hair transplant surgery.
The results were immediate. There were "significantly increased hair shaft production" within days of treatment.
"Thanks to our collaboration with a local hair transplant surgeon, Dr Asim Shahmalak, we were able to conduct our experiments with scalp hair follicles that had generously been donated by over 40 patients and were then tested in organ cultures," Dr. Hawkshaw explained their methodology.
"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," he added.
An estimated 50 percent of men above the age of 50 years will show signs of male pattern baldness, as Ladbible pointed out. Currently, two drugs are on the market to deal with hair loss — Minoxidil and Finasteride.
Both of these drugs have their own side effects, and perhaps more importantly, the two current treatments "often produce disappointing hair regrowth results," as the University of Manchester's report pointed out.
In contrast, WAY-316606 works by blocking one of the proteins that can cause baldness in men in the same way that it treats osteoporosis. It's now thought to work similarly to another drug that American scientists have found as another potential cure for baldness.
The drug, Ruxolitinib, targets so-called Janus kinase (JAK) enzymes, chemicals that result in hair follicles becoming inactive. The result is as much as a 92 percent improvement in hair growth.
Dr. Hawkshaw also argued that the drug would work as well as current treatments or even better, but without the side effects. Currently, the only option available for men to regain real hair is to undergo hair transplantation surgery.