Drugs ruxolitinib and tofacitinib have interesting side effects for hair loss research.
A study titled “Pharmacologic inhibition of JAK-STAT signaling promotes hair growth” and published in the journal Science Advances by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center shows that two drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for blood disease and arthritis have been found very effecting in helping lab mice to regrow lost hair within days.
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Ruxolitinib was approved by the FDA for treating blood disease and tofacitinib was approved for treating rheumatoid arthritis, but clinical trials show the two drugs are very effecting at reversing plaque psoriasis and alopecia areata – an autoimmune disease that cause hair loss.
The drugs work for hair restoration by inhibiting enzymes within hair follicles, known as Janus kinase (JAK). The drugs have been found particularly helpful in restoring hair loss such as baldness where this is caused by hair follicles trapped within a resting state.
“What we’ve found is promising, though we haven’t yet shown it’s a cure for pattern baldness,” said Dr. Angela M. Christiano of Columbia University Medical Center. “More work needs to be done to test if JAK inhibitors can induce hair growth in humans using formulations specially made for the scalp.”
Christiano and her team discovered that alopecia areata is occasioned when the autoimmune attacks hair follicles, leading to baldness, but JAK inhibitors prevented the autoimmune attack from occurring and induced massive hair growth in patients with the disorder.
Since the drugs worked more effectively when they were applied to the skin of mice, the researchers note it might they might be reviving the functions of the hair follicles while also preventing immune attacks on them. Mice treated with one of the JAK inhibitors for five days developed significant new hair within 10 days to spur massive hair growth, but the control mice never grew any hairs within this period.
“There aren’t many compounds that can push hair follicles into their growth cycle so quickly,” said Dr. Christiano. “Some topical agents induce tufts of hair here and there after a few weeks, but very few compounds have this potent an effect so quickly.”
While it is possible that the drugs would also work to restore hair growth in humans, the researchers are still looking into this angle judging by the way they have worked effectively in lab mice.
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