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U.K. Researchers Report Osteoporosis Drug Could Promote Hair Growth

hair growth advancementsResearch Associate Nathan Hawkshaw is the latest scientist to get the celebrity treatment from the hair restoration community. His work has opened yet another door to a potential future treatment to fight hair loss and promote new hair growth for those experiencing baldness.

While pursuing his PhD at the University of Manchester’s Center for Dermatology Research, Hawkshaw sought to better understand one of the unwanted side effects of Cyclosporine A (CsA), which helps the body adapt to transplanted tissue and prevents severe graft vs. host disease. For decades, the medical community has been aware that excessive hair growth, known as hypertrichosis, was a “cosmetically undesirable” side effect of taking CsA.

I suspect that some people experiencing hair loss have a hard time sympathizing with those experiencing too much hair growth. However, a quick Google search of the term ‘hypertrichosis’ will make clear that this condition is usually about hair growth in areas of the body where we aren’t accustomed to seeing hair grow – including on the face beyond the typical hair line and beard areas.

In the article, “Identifying novel strategies for treating human hair loss disorders: Cyclosporine A suppresses the Wnt inhibitor, SFRP1, in the dermal papilla of human scalp hair follicles,” published in the journal PLOS Biology, Hawkshaw describes his effort to pinpoint the cause of CsA’s effects on hair follicles. The investigation focused on a protein gene known as Secreted Frizzled Related Protein 1 (SFRP1). The gene regulates the growth of many tissues, including hair follicles.

Hawkshaw observed the CsA reduced the activity of SFRP1, making it possible for hair to grow even on balding scalps.

Because CsA has serious side effects that would never be acceptable for a hair loss treatment, Hawkshaw’s research turned to other drugs that could impact the activity of SFRP1. The one that rose above all others was a compound known as WAY-316606. As Hawkshaw writes in his PLOS Biology article:

“…using WAY-316606 would be a much more targeted approach for stimulating human hair growth without having to use a potent immunosuppressant, particularly as thus far there are no known off-target effects from WAY-316606 treatment.”

Hawkshaw found that WAY-316606 effectively increases Wnt signaling by preventing SFRP1 from interacting with the Wnt/β-catnin pathway. We previously wrote about Wnt signaling in the article, “Are Latest Research Findings Too Good or Are They True?

WAY-316606 is a treatment for osteoporosis because researchers have found that it can increase total bone area. When Hawkshaw’s team applied WAY-316606 to hair follicles, they observed that it promoted hair growth even better than CaA. And unlike CsA, WAY-316606 isn’t believed to have serious side effects.

In an article posted on the University of Manchester’s website, Hawkshaw called WAY-316606, “a promising new pharmacological promoter of human hair growth.”

“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,” said Hawkshaw.

“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.”

That last thought is a valid caution. As we have stated in many other posts over the past few years, it is premature to be heralding these findings as a cure, let alone a treatment. We cringed when we saw the R&D Systems website featured the following note from Tocris Bioscience pleading with people to stop asking to purchase WAY-316606:

“We are aware of a study in PLOS Biology where WAY-316606 was found to stimulate hair follicle growth. Please note that WAY-316606 from Tocris is for laboratory research use only, and that we will only sell to established scientific businesses and institutes.”

For your safety, only consider FDA-approved treatments to battle hair loss, which include minoxidil, finasteride (for men only) and hair restoration surgery. Additionally, we offer Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, the LaserCap® LCPRO and scalp micropigmentation.

Before signing off, we at Arocha Hair Restoration and Transplant Center would especially like to acknowledge the contribution of one of our peers, Dr. Asim Shahmalak of Crown Clinic who practices in the U.K. with offices in Manchester and London. Forty of Dr. Shahmalak’s patients donated follicles from their hair transplants, which Hawkshaw used to test the effects of WAY-316606 in organ cultures.

As we learn more about WAY-316606, we will keep the hair restoration community updated. In the meantime, call us today at 713-526-HAIR or 713-526-4247 to learn more and book an appointment.