Osteoporosis Drug May be a New Hair Loss Solution

A drug originally created to treat osteoporosis has been found to have an effect on hair growth and, therefore, may be a solution to hair loss. This is very exciting, considering the psychologic toll that balding has on individuals. Hair plays a significant role in many cultures, leaving many feeling a loss of sense of self and loss of control over their identity when hair loss and thinning occurs. The demand for balding remedies as well as efforts to find new remedies is increasing.

While “there are many other drugs in the making to treat hair thinning and loss, we do not have solid documentation of their effects yet,” explains Dr. Mohebi. We are now beginning to see the outcomes of these efforts. However, they are very new concepts and more research is necessary before the solutions can be considered reliable ways to treat hair thinning and baldness.

A new study takes a close look at what is known as the Wnt pathway. This is a relatively new concept that demonstrates the relationship between hair growth and the process of wound healing. Dr. Mohebi has studied this process in depth at the Johns Hopkins Surgical Department.

The Study:

Cyclosporine A is hypertrichosis-inducing immunosuppressant that was used in this study to identify new hair growth–promoting molecular targets (2018). Hypertrichosis refers to an excess of hair growth, so a hypertrichosis-inducing agent will activate and promote hair growth. Cyclosporine A is not used to promote hair growth due to its harmful effects as an immunosuppressant. So, the study used the drug in order to identify the ways it works to enhance hair growth and find an alternative, less toxic form that would have the same effects.

The Wnt inhibitor, known as secreted frizzled-related protein 1 (SFRP1), was identified through microarray analysis (2018). Through a pharmacologic approach, it was found that SFRP1 is a regulator of the activity in the hair bulb (2018). SFRP1 does this by inhibiting Wnt ligands. Therefore, if SFRP1 is inhibited by the SFRP1 antagonist, known as WAY-316606, there was “enhanced hair shaft production, hair shaft keratin expression, and inhibited spontaneous HF (hair follicle) regression” ex vivo (outside of it’s natural “in vivo” environment) (2018). Through this series, they identified that WAY-316606 had similar effects on hair growth as Cyclosporine A, without the toxic profile.

How it differs from other drugs:

Continual Wnt over-activation has been associated with potential risks for cancers. However, the study proves that there may be a way around having to confront these risks. Something beneficial to this way of inhibiting SFRP1, by using WAY-316606 that was presented in the study, is that it is considered “ligand-limiting.” This means that it only promotes Wnt signaling through ligands that are already present. Therefore, it may avoid the potential risks typically related to the chronic Wnt over-activation (2018). This also proves that WAY-316606 is “a more targeted hair growth promoted with the potential to treat human hair loss disorders” (2018).

Another benefit to this potential treatment for hair loss is that it may be used in both males and females, unlike other solutions, which may be more effective in one sex over the other. We recommend Finasteride for men and Rogaine for women with patterned hair loss. Other types of hair loss may need other drugs.

Pharmacologic Approach to Hair Loss vs. Hair Transplant

You may be wondering what the difference is in treating hair loss with medication versus hair transplantation. Most drugs that are currently in the market for hair loss help prevent hair loss or slow it down. Hair transplant, on the other hand, is the only permanent solution for baldness. We usually recommend using medications like Propecia or Rogaine after hair transplant to minimize the risk of shock loss after the procedure and to minimize the need for future hair restorations.

You may read the original study here, from our reference:

http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003705