Scientists focus on blocking enzymes to enable hair growth

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Scientists focus on blocking enzymes to enable hair growth

Related tags Baldness

A group of scientists at the Columbia University Medical Center claim research they have carried out shows that suspending a certain family of enzymes in hair follicles can help restore hair growth.

The research, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, shows that experiments conducted on mice with human hair follicles found that the topical application of drugs which inhibit the janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes can promote “rapid and robust” hair growth.

The study conducted by Angela M. Christiano, PhD, and her team, showed that the JAK inhibitors could restore a wide variety of hair loss types, including male pattern baldness, as well as well as hair loss caused by hair follicles becoming trapped in a resting state.

The team focused on two JAK inhibitors that have already been approved by the US FDA – one for the treatment of blood diseases (ruxolitinib) and one for rheumatoid arthritis (tofacitinib).

Research focuses on JAK inhibitor drugs

However, both the drugs are also being tested for plaque psoriasis and alopecia areata – a form of hair loss caused by autoimmune disease and an application that has prompted the scientists at Columbia to delve further, albeit almost by accident.

During earlier research by the team last year, experiments into the effects of these inhibitors for alopecia araeta showed how the inhibitors shut off the signal that provokes the autoimmune attack and that oral forms of the drug restored hair growth in some individuals.

Subsequent research on mice showed that when the drug was applied topically mice grew even more hair than experience with oral dosing because it helped awaken hair follicles from the dormant phase.

Hair regrowth within two weeks

Indeed, mice treated for five days with a topical dose of the JAK inhibitors then sprouted new hair within 10 days because of the accelerated hair growth phase.

"What we've found is promising, though we haven't yet shown it is effective for male pattern baldness,"​ said Dr. Christiano.

"More work needs to be done to test formulations of JAK inhibitors specially made for the scalp to determine whether they can induce hair growth in humans."

Future research will work towards determining whether the JAK inhibitors are equally effective in treating hair regrowth for other forms of hair loss disorders, but the researchers note that few compounds or treatments have previously shown such potent results at this stage of research. 

Related topics Formulation & Science

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