A new hair related study out from the UK’s University of Manchester has been making global news as a potential cure for baldness for the past several hours. The paper is titled: 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 and was released in in the open access journal “PLOS Biology”. The lead author is Dr. Nathan Hawkshaw, and one of the co-authors is Dr. Ralf Paus (who I have covered a number of times on this blog in the past). A summary of this latest work can be read here.
Note that despite the title of the study, the main subject matter is not Cyclosporine A (CsA), but rather, an unrelated drug called WAY-316606. I will discuss the actual findings of this research in the next section.
For regular readers of this blog, this is not a surprising development. I covered Cyclosporine and hair growth in detail in 2016. It should be noted, however, that past research has focused on Cyclosporine’s anti-inflammatory and autoimmune properties (as is the case with JAK inhibitors). However, this latest research found an alternative mechanism via which Cyclosporine A benefits hair growth.
The researchers, via gene expression analysis, discovered that CsA inhibits a protein called SFRP1, which in turn is responsible for blocking the Wnt pathway and hindering hair growth. Also note that this latest work was conducted on human hair follicles. Most past research has involved mice hair or other mammalian cell culture.
Osteoporosis Drug WAY-316606 for Hair Growth
More importantly, this latest research went one crucial step further. The researchers found that an already existing SFRP1 antagonist drug to treat osteoporosis (brittle bones) was several times more effective than CsA at growing hair in humans. This drug is called WAY-316606.
Moreover, while CsA has major potential side effects, the same is not true for WAY-316606. Note that while CsA is an immunosupresant, WAY-316606 is a non-immunosppressive, chemically unrelated agent.
Project leader Dr Nathan Hawkshaw said it could “make a real difference to people who suffer from hair loss”.
Dr. Hawkes said “I’m very optimistic it could work. In lab tests, the drug started promoting growth in hair follicles in just two days. We are looking at using it as a topical treatment, a gel or shampoo that could reach the follicle. Dr Hawkshaw said there are no known side-effects of the bone drug“.
Update: The University of Manchester now has an article on it.
Wnt signaling has been covered at least briefly by me in what must be several dozen blog posts by now. A number of companies are working on curing hair loss by targeting the Wnt pathway, with the most famous of these being Samumed.
Now we have one more name to add to that list.