Research at Columbia University Medical Center has lead to a new breakthrough which could serve as the first real step towards a cure for human baldness, according to UPI. Researchers noticed “rapid and robust hair growth” in mice caused by a combination of two drugs blocking enzymes in their hair follicles, though they were quick to say a cure for baldness has not yet been achieved.
The two drugs, ruxolitinib and tofacitinib — used to treat blood diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively — inhibit a certain family of enzymes found in hair follicles called Janus kinase, or JAK.
Dr. Angela Christiano, one of the researchers involved in the project, emphasized the the new treatment’s success in a press release. “There aren’t many compounds that can push hair follicles into their growth cycle so quickly,” she said. “Very few compounds have this potent an effect so quickly.”
The breakthrough came about during a study of potential treatments for a form of hair loss caused by an autoimmune attack on the hair follicles, called alopecia areata. Researchers found that the combination of the two drugs not only stopped the autoimmune attacks but restored hair growth among certain patients as well.
According to the study, researchers found that the two drug combination managed to stop enzymes from causing hair follicles to cease growing hair. Applying the drug combination directly onto the skin has yielded more hair growth than trials in which mice were given the drugs systematically.
“What we’ve found is promising, though we haven’t yet shown it’s a cure for pattern baldness,” Dr. Christiano said. “More work needs to be done to test if JAK inhibitors can induce hair growth in humans using formulations specifically made for the scalp.” Though the drug combination has only been tested on mice grafted with artificially grown human hair follicles, the results have researchers hopeful.