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Baldness cure could be found in an osteoporosis drug, study finds

Key Points
  • A drug originally designed as a treatment for osteoporosis has potential to aid hair growth.
  • Scientists based in England now want a clinical trial.
Huseyin Turgut Erkisi | Getty Images

A drug originally designed as a treatment for the bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis, is being considered as a possible breakthrough treatment for bald people.

Currently only two drugs — minoxidil and finasteride — are available for treatment of male-pattern balding (androgenetic alopecia). A project by The University of Manchester's Centre for Dermatology Research in England began work by examining an immunosuppressive drug that had long been known to cause hair growth as a side effect.

This drug, Cyclosporine A (CsA), has been commonly used since the 1980s to suppress transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases. The project team discovered that CsA restricts a protein that when otherwise left alone, slows the growth of hair follicles. Hair growth, however, is the least problematic side-effect of CsA, leading project leader, Nathan Hawkshaw, to look for another solution.

After some research, he discovered that a separate compound developed to tackle osteoporosis also suppressed the bald-causing protein in the same manner. Better yet, scientists believe this drug, titled "WAY-316606," can be administered without dramatic side-effects.

The study was published Tuesday in the open access journal PLOS Biology. On release of the report, Hawkshaw said successful experiments were carried out using scalp hair follicles that had been donated by over 40 patients.

"This makes our research clinically very relevant, as many hair research studies only use cell culture," he said.

Hawkshaw said the next step should be a clinical trial to determine whether WAY-316606, or similar compounds, are effective and safe.

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