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Retired Drug’s Side-Effects Could Help with Hair Loss

Cyclosporine A isolated from fungi, is an old immunosuppressive drug, commonly used since the 1980s as a crucial drug that suppresses transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases. Now, a new study by scientists at the University of Manchester has revealed that this drug could be used to potently induce hair growth in humans.

The team used the chalked out drug as a lead compound to identify novel therapeutic targets that can aid the development of new hair growth–promoting agents.

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They analyzed the gene expressions of isolated human scalp hair follicles and found that the drug reversed the way follicles expressed a protein called SFRP1, which stunts the development and growth of hair follicles and other tissues in the body.

In their next step, they found a specific way to antagonize SFRP1 thereby uncovering a compound called WAY-316606. Developed to treat osteoporosis, WAY-316606 was observed to target similar mechanisms to Cyclosporine A but without the broader immunosuppressive actions of that drug.

Ex vivo analysis carried out on human scalp samples revealed that WAY-316606 enhanced hair growth, suggesting external application of it, or a similar compound, could be an effective hair loss treatment.

Dr. Hawkshaw said: “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.

“This makes our research clinically very relevant, as many hair research studies only use cell culture.”

He added: “When the hair growth-promoting effects of CsA were previously studied in mice, a very different molecular mechanism of action was suggested; had we relied on these mouse research concepts, we would have been barking up the wrong tree.

“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.

“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.”

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