Friday, 8 January 2016

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Like many a man out there, I have gone largely bald. It started when I was in my late twenties and early thirties, and was pretty well established by my mid-thirties. I seem to recall that it was traumatic at first, with at least one period of attempting to use a 'special style hair cut' (aka a funny comb-over), with which to hide the issue.

But fairly quickly I resigned myself to my fate, and bought a set of hair clippers, turned them to blades only, and gave myself what colloquially is known as a 'number one' all over my head. Do you know what? Such was my false conceit that everyone was looking at me, that I expected comments and embarrassment all day. However no one said anything at all until well past lunchtime, and even then they were unsure why I looked 'different', and one girl even complimented for my new 'nice clean look'.

Yul Brynner - Role Model For Many A Desperate Man

Of course eventually some of the lads gave me some stick, but buoyed up by the positive female responses, which ranged from indifference (nothing new), to some new interest in me, I laughed to myself, and merely remarked that it was 'easy to maintain'. I have in fact been a number one ever since, and apart from the fact that 'the runway' on my head, continues to get wider as the years go by, I have in effect frozen time, at least with regards to my head shape, if not the fringe cover which is distinctly 'salt'n'pepper' these days ... well, perhaps even more salt than pepper.

Nowadays I can't really recall what it was like to have to dry hair, or even care about combing and styling etc, and in fact, I am not sure that even if I suddenly had a full head of hair again, I would stop having a number one hair cut.

I was reminded of all this, when I saw yet another headline on many websites recently of a "New Hope For Baldies" or similar sentiments .... what of course this should really say is "New False Hope For Baldies", because if had a five pound note (it used to be a pound note, but that's inflation for you, even proverbs have to catch up), for every claim to have found a cure for baldness, then I would be long retired and living in luxury.

The latest wonder drugs being touted are 'Ruxolitinib', which is usually used to treat blood diseases, and 'Tofacitinib', which is usually used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Both are drugs known to inhibit JAK enzymes and both of which seem to prompt "rapid and robust hair growth when applied to the skin" in average mice, when applied externally to their skin (as opposed to internally, where presumably they work as expected). 

Three Messengers Of Hope .... For Some

Now despite these stories being picked up in the press again this week, in fact the Xeljanz (tofacitinib) drug results were being trumpeted about a year ago, when reports said that a man had grown back his hair after a scant eight months of treatment with the drug (internally) ... it was this that had prompted further investigations.

Scientists from The University of Columbia found that any drugs that block the Janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes promoted this growth when applied to the skin by rapidly awakening resting follicles out of dormancy. They extended the experiment to human hair follicles that had been developed in a lab, then skin grafted onto mice with similar results.

However, and you kind of knew there would be a however didn't you? Although described as "promising", the researchers admitted that they haven’t yet "shown it’s a cure for pattern baldness".

And therein lies the rub so to speak, because the great folicular breakthrough, would probably be a cheap way to cure pattern baldness .... well actually, from the drug companies point of view, a permanent cure would not actually be great, what they would want was a treatment that worked with no side effects, but that had to be reapplied every few weeks .... that would be the ideal.

So in the meantime, all that can be said is that more work needs to be done to test if JAK inhibitors can induce hair growth in humans, using formulations specially made for the scalp. There are of course two possible markets here:

1) Those desperate young men who are currently losing their hair, and its these who are the market who will pay almost anything to:

(a) Stop further loss, and
(b) Regrow some hair

and its these desperate souls who are the market for such products as 'regain'

and then there are

2) Those older baldies, of whom there are equally many, and who have distinctly more money to spend than the first group but:

(a) Their hair follicles have long been frozen in a resting state because of androgenetic alopecia (which causes male and female pattern baldness).

(b) They have grown used to their condition, and might not be willing to fork out £50, £100 or who knows what, every few weeks, for a regular treatment.

So do the drug companies try to grow a market (so to speak), by developing a cure that needs regular applications to keep working, and using the desperate current young males (and some females) as their base market?

Or, do they try and find a one-off cure, that many, many, more males would be attracted to? |basically  one massive market hit worth many billions and billions, but then a more steady market as a new generation of men develop the problem?

The potential income is massive, the rewards great, and the demand even greater, but despite years of research, and many millions (if not billions) in research costs, the pharmaceutical industry still have to come up with a product that actually really works. According to the UK's NHS website, male-pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss, affecting around half of all men by 50 years of age, and although it is less common, women can also be affected by female-pattern baldness. There is currently still no definitive cure for hair loss.

Still, I don't want to end this on a negative note, not when the whiff of so much testosterone is in the air, so last word to the researchers ....

"There aren’t many compounds that can push hair follicles into their growth cycle so quickly. Some topical agents induce tufts of hair here and there after a few weeks, but very few compounds have this potent an effect so quickly."

1 comment:

  1. Yul Brynner ; sass that hoopy, there's a frood who really knows where his towel is!


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A middle aged orange male ... So 'un' PC it's not true....