Cancer and rheumatoid arthritis drugs work as hair growth agents, according to the findings of a new study featuring in the Science Advances journal.
Baldness and hair loss could now be treated with the help of two drugs typically used in cancer treatments and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively. The news are encouraging for many who have to face these issues, despite the fact that more research needs to be conducted for the results of the study to be fully understood.
Typically, cancer drugs will provoke hair loss. However, this is not the case with JAK inhibitors such as those used in the study. These drugs act against the effects of enzymes belonging to the Janus kinase family (JAK). When applied directly on the skin, the researchers found that the JAK inhibitors promote hair growth in less time than any other hair loss or baldness treatment.
Researchers with Columbia University, led by Doctor Angela Christiano tested ruxolitinib and tofacitinib on balding mice. These FDA approved drugs for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis are sold on the market under the Jakafi and Xeljanz brands.
Looking to find a treatment for a more severe form of hair loss known as alopecia areata, the research team found that they act as agents of rapid and robust hair growth. Alopecia areata is triggered by one’s immune system. Hair follicles are under attack and are either destroyed or remain in a dormant state, retreating from the hair growth cycle. The two JAK inhibitors suppress the immune system’s response to the hair follicles. The surprising finding, which Doctor Christiano labeled as counter-intuitive, applied specifically to the instances where the drugs were applied topically.
When taken orally, none showed the same effect on hair growth. Applied topically, the JAK inhibitors affect the hair follicles in a direct manner. The JAK enzymes act as suppressors of the hair follicles, stalling growth and keeping them in a dormant state. The cancer and rheumatoid arthritis drugs work as hair growth agents, suppressing the enzyme’s action and allowing the hair follicles to grow.
The bald mice on which the two drugs were applied showed high rates of hair growth within just ten days of the treatment. Nonetheless, the researchers report that their finding applies exclusively to the skin application of the JAK inhibitors. Taken orally, they affect the immune system and leave patients more vulnerable to a number of infections. As such, oral treatment is not fit for treating baldness or hair loss.
According to a statement published by the Columbia University:
“Columbia University has filed patent applications relating to the discoveries reported in this paper, which are being commercialized through Vixen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of which Dr. Christiano is a founder”.
Provided more studies are performed on the matter, JAK inhibitors could become an efficient treatment for severe hair loss or baldness, such as male pattern baldness or other types.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia