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"The fact this new agent, which had never even been considered in a hair loss context, promotes human hair growth is exciting because of its translational potential: It could one day make a real difference to people who suffer from hair loss," said study leader Nathan Hawkshaw, of the University of Manchester in England.
"Clearly though, a clinical trial is required next to tell us whether this drug or similar compounds are both effective and safe in hair loss patients," Hawkshaw said in a university news release.
Only two drugs -- minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) -- exist to treat so-called male-pattern balding. Both have side effects and often produce disappointing hair regrowth results, the researchers noted.
Exploring other possible options, Hawkshaw and his colleagues discovered that the drug WAY-316606 reduces expression of a protein called SFRP1. This protein inhibits the development and growth of many tissues, including hair follicles.
When the researchers treated hair follicles with the drug, it enhanced their growth.
WAY-316606 was originally developed to treat bone loss related to osteoporosis.
The researchers said clinical trials are needed to test the safety and effectiveness of this drug and similar compounds.
The study was published May 8 in the journal PLOS Biology.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of Manchester, news release, May 8, 2018