Repurposing an arthritis drug to grow back hair

April 4, 2022
Repurposing an arthritis drug to grow back hair

A common rheumatoid arthritis drug could be a potential treatment for alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes rapid hair loss – sufferers have expressed anxiety and grief as their hair sheds in clumps, even affecting the eyebrows and eyelashes. Scientists at Yale University have found that the drug baricitinib, a JAK inhibitor, could interrupt the cytokine signaling that harms hair follicles in alopecia areata. JAK inhibitors are typically used to treat autoimmune forms of joint disease.

Alopecia areata has come under scrutiny after a recent Academy Awards incident. Although reported in at least 200,000 Americans each year, there are no treatments approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for alopecia areata.

Baricitinib could soon change that.

Based on a study of a Phase III clinical trial of around 1,200 people with severe alopecia areata, participants on a high dose of the drug successfully grew their hair back. The scientists are yet working to ascertain the effectiveness and safety of the drug for long-term use but are optimistic of its potential.

[The trial participants had lost at least half of their hair because of alopecia areata. One third of participants who received 4mg baricitinib for 36 weeks reported regrowth.]

“Alopecia areata is a crazy journey, marked by chaos, confusion, and profound sadness for many who suffer from it,” said Dr. Brett King, Associate professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “It will be incredible to have a medicine to help people emerge on the other side, normalcy restored, recognisable again to themselves and those around them.”


Category: Education, Features

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