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Is Inflammation to Blame for Hair Loss? Research Shows JAK Inhibitor Promotes Hair Growth

man inspecting possibly receding hairline in mirror

It’s well known that hair loss is part and parcel to getting older. According to the National Institutes of Health, over half of all men experience some degree of androgenetic alopecia (a.k.a. male pattern baldness) by age 50, and some 30 million women experience androgenetic alopecia as well.

What is less certain is exactly why hair loss happens, especially as we age. Studies have suggested causes ranging from genetic predisposition to age-related hormonal changes to stress and nutritional deficiencies. Now we have evidence of another possible cause of hair loss: inflammation.

New studies show that preventing inflammation may prevent hair loss

Healio Dermatology recently reported on clinical trials for a new hair loss treatment that works by inhibiting the enzyme Janus kinase (JAK), which triggers inflammatory cells near the hair follicle to tell the follicle to go into a dormant phase.

The study was based on a discovery made by a team of Columbia University researchers led by Angela Christiano, Ph.D., which homed in on JAK as the conduit between the inflammatory cell and the hair follicle stem cell. In other words, if JAK is present, inflammation is more likely to be present, and hair follicles are less likely to grow. Over time, this can cause hair loss.

Investigators found 73% of subjects had increased hair growth after 6 months, and 82% self-reported increased hair growth. Treatment was especially effective for female subjects, many of whom experienced a steady increase in hair growth over the course of the trial.

The results of these clinical trials are promising. Of the 22 subjects who completed a 6-month treatment period, involving the twice-daily application of a topical JAK inhibitor called Aclaris, investigators found that 73% experienced increased hair growth, and 82% self-reported increased hair growth. Treatment was especially effective for female patients, who were more likely to experience a steady increase in hair growth over the course of the trial.

Have we found a new non-surgical hair loss treatment? Perhaps, but it won’t help all patients.

While this study was small, and Aclaris is not yet available on the market (it still needs to undergo more phases of trial), it appears we are close to having another treatment option for hair loss. At the very least, the research and resulting clinical trials signify a breakthrough in our understanding of what causes hair loss.

The treatment depended on the hair follicles still having the ability to grow—the JAK inhibitor did not bring back completely dormant hair follicles.

We must, however, keep in mind that this nor any other treatment is a one-size-fits-all hair loss cure. First of all, the causal link between inflammation and hair loss has only been determined for androgenetic alopecia, and not other types of hair loss.

Second, the trials were conducted on patients who still had moderate hair growth in the treatment area, and the treatment depended on the hair follicles still having the ability to grow. In other words, the JAK inhibitor couldn’t bring completely dormant hair follicles “back from the dead,” so to speak, and therefore it’s not likely to be helpful in treating more severe areas of baldness.

The best hair loss treatment is the one that will work for you

As one of Eugene’s hair restoration specialists, Dr. Movassaghi is always on the lookout for safe, effective treatment options. We will keep an eye on this research—but you don’t have to wait to treat hair loss if you are bothered by it now.

We invite you to contact us for a personal consultation to discuss your hair restoration options, including NeoGraft minimally invasive hair transplants, which can be done in our office with local anesthesia and requires no long, linear scar. Dr. Movassaghi has helped numerous men and women restore their natural hair with NeoGraft, and he can help you too. Call 541-686-8700 to learn more!

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