In a recent study, scientists found that a drug called ruxolitinib could effectively cure hair loss disease.
About 75% of patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata—an autoimmune disease that causes patchy and, less frequently, total hair loss—had significant hair regrowth after treatment.
This is reported by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). By the end of treatment, average hair regrowth among the patients was 92%.
The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation/Insight. Researchers tested 12 patients with the hair loss disease.
A separate study from Stanford University and Yale University that tested a similar drug reported consistent results.
Alopecia areata, the second most common form of hair loss, can occur at any age and affects men and women equally.
The disease usually causes hair loss on the scalp, but some patients also experience facial and body hair loss with devastating consequences, particularly in children.
Currently, there are no known treatments that can completely restore hair.
Previously, the Columbia researchers found the specific immune cells and the dominant inflammatory signaling pathways responsible for attacking the hair follicle in alopecia areata.
Subsequent experiments with mouse and human hair follicles showed that topical and oral drugs that inhibit the Janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes, known as JAK inhibitors, reawaken these dormant follicles by blocking inflammatory signaling.
Two such JAK inhibitors already approved by the U.S. FDA are ruxolitinib, a medication that is used to treat bone marrow malignancies, and tofacitinib, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
The study recruited 12 patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata (more than 30 percent hair loss).
All patients were given 20 mg of oral ruxolitinib, twice a day, for three to six months. All people were followed for another three months to test the durability of treatment.
Nine of the patients had hair regrowth of 50% or greater. By the end of the treatment period, 77% of those who responded to the therapy achieved hair regrowth of more than 95%.
A third of the responders had significant hair loss in the follow-up period after the medication was stopped, although hair loss did not reach pre-treatment levels.
Skin biopsies performed before, during, and after treatment also showed that responders had less inflammatory response—and higher levels of hair growth.
These levels were similar to those in people without alopecia areata.
The drug was well-tolerated in all participants, with no serious adverse events.
Those that did occur were infrequent and included bacterial skin infections, skin allergy symptoms, and lower hemoglobin levels, which resolved with dose adjustment.
In the Stanford/Yale study, a series of patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata responded to another JAK inhibitor called tofacitinib.
Together, the two studies show that scientists are on the right track to cure hair loss disease.
News source: Columbia University Medical Center.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to Michael Borausch.