Researchers recently discovered that WAY-316606, a drug used to treat osteoporosis, can induce hair growth. The drug has however not yet undergone any clinical trials.
Scientists forming part of a project run by the University of Manchester's Centre for Dermatology Research previously investigated the chemical compounds in the immunosuppressant drug Cyclosporin A (CsA), because of excessive hair growth (hypertrichosis) being one of its side effects.
A safer alternative
The study, published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) Biology journal, states that because it was found that CsA potentially induces hair growth in humans, scientists decided to pursue that angle.
CsA however has a toxic profile – and it would be harmful to use the drug purely for the benefit of a side-effect, rather than its primary function.
This meant scientists needed to find a safer alternative to the chemical compound found in CsA. They then discovered WAY-316606 – a drug used to treat osteoporosis.
The scientists tested WAY-316606 on more than 40 human scalp hair follicles samples and found that the samples went into a state of anagen – the active growth phase of hair follicles.
A chemical compound in CsA restricts the protein, Secreted Frizzled-Related Protein-1 (SFRP-1), which usually slows or stops the growth of new hair follicles.
They believe that WAY-316606 delivers the same effect and restricts the action of SFRP-1, while avoiding the harmful effects of CsA.
Bring on a clinical trial
The study's lead, Dr Nathan Hawkshaw, told Sky News that this breakthrough could, one day, make a real difference to people who suffer from hair loss.
"The fact that 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.
"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," said Dr Hawkshaw.