A legit cure to thinning hair may be underway. Scientists from Columbia University Medical Center have discovered drugs that when applied topically can block the Janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes, leading to a surge in hair growth.
JAK family are a group of enzymes found in hair follicles. In recent lab tests, researchers found that when JAK inhibitors are applied to skin while the enzymes are in a suspended state, hair growth takes place. Researchers believe that this discovery may be the key to reversing baldness and thinning locks.
Dr. Angela M. Christiano, along with her colleagues stumbled upon this happy result while studying alopecia areata, an auto-immune disease that results in hair loss. When JAK inhibitors were given, signals that cause the immune system to attack hair follicles were blocked. They also found that when the drugs were taken orally, some patients experienced hair growth.
Christiano and her team took the study a step further. Using mice and human hair follicles, they found that hair growth was rapid if drugs were applied directly to skin. This may show that JAK inhibitors not only prevent the immune system from attacking hair follicles but encourages follicle growth.
As demonstrated in the above photo, mice were given applications of inhibitors ruxolitinib or tofacitinib on half of their bodies. In three weeks, hair had drastically regrown. Little to no hair growth was shown in mice used in the control group (shown in far left photo). Researchers believe that inhibitors reawaken hair follicles in a dormant state. They also found inhibitors promoted longer hair growth in human hair follicles grafted on mice skin or in a culture.
“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.”
Trials were conducted on healthy hair follicles. Research on hair affected by hair loss disorders are being planned. This study was published in the online edition of Science Advances.