Columbia University is a very prestigious university with a huge number of accomplishments. Its alumni network, for example, includes Barack Obama (President of the United States), Dan Loeb (hedge fund manager), Warren Buffet (business entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist), and James Franco (actor and filmmaker).
And now the university can add progressive science research to its list of accomplishments. According to a recent study published in Science Advances, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have found a way to handle hair loss triggered by an autoimmune attack in mice that may lead to a cure for baldness in humans.
There are approximately 80 million people in the United States suffering from thinning hair or balding. Although treatment options are available (such as Rogaine), their ability to entirely remove baldness is limited.
While experimenting with mice and human hair follicles, Angela M. Christiano, Associate Professor of Molecular Dermatology, and colleagues discovered that drugs that inhibit the Janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes support healthy and rapid hair growth when applied to the skin.
The researchers tested ruxolitinib and tofacitinib on mice suffering from alopecia areata, a condition where the body’s immune system improperly attacks its own hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
As part of their research procedure, selected mice had half of their body periodically treated with a cream, while the other half was left untouched. Within approximately three weeks, the side of their body (where the drug was applied) regrew their hair almost entirely.
Christiano was surprised at the speed in which the hair grew back. “The surprise was when we started using the drugs on alopecia areata patients–when we used them topically the hair grew back much faster and more robustly than it did orally.”
Although the team hasn’t found a “miracle cure” for baldness yet, the JAK-inhibiting drug is a step in the right direction.
“What we’ve found is promising, though we haven’t yet shown it’s a cure for pattern baldness,” Christiano said. “More work needs to be done to test if JAK inhibitors can induce hair growth in humans using formulations specially made for the scalp. Our findings open new avenues for exploration of JAK-STAT inhibition for promotion of hair growth and highlight the role of this pathway in regulating the activation of hair follicle stem cells.”
The university’s findings can be found in the journal Science Advances.