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Can a Pill Reverse Male Pattern Baldness?

November 18, 2016
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For men suffering from male pattern baldness, also called androgenic alopecia, there may be some hope for a fix on the horizon. More than 3 million cases of male pattern baldness occur in the U.S. each year, and often the only thing that helps with this chronic hair loss is over-the-counter treatment—but this often yields minimal results. Other men suffer hair loss for reasons not related to genes and hormones. Men who are diagnosed with alopecia areata often lose more than just some inches on their hairline. An autoimmune disease that attacks the hair follicles, often brought on by severe stress, alopecia areata causes the hair on the head, eyebrows and eyelashes to completely disappear. Which for some sufferers, leaves them feeling like outsiders in their communities and a spectacle that others stare at, often asking if they are undergoing chemotherapy. However, for one man with alopecia areata, taking a pill for his rheumatoid arthritis, which is another autoimmune disease, provided him with a life-changing miracle. After taking the pill for seven months all of his hair grew back and he was able to live life as he did before, without feeling ostracized and looked-at. But what does this mean for other men with alopecia areata, was his case simply an anomaly? A study was conducted on this question at Stanford, Yale and Columbia with 65 other alopecia areata patients. They each took the rheumatoid arthritis pill, called Xeljanz and were observed for any hair regrowth. A third of the men grew back more than half of their hair, and over half of the 65 men saw some sort of hair regrowth. So, does this mean that when given to men who are experiencing hair loss, Xeljanz and drugs like it will give them their full head of hair back? Not exactly. First, the men with Alopecia Areata did not experience any extra hair growth. That is, if they were to be experiencing male pattern baldness from hormones and genetics, then they would still have hair loss after the medication kicked in—they would be getting their middle-aged hair back, not their 25-year-old hair. Second, researchers are extremely skeptical about any impact on male pattern baldness due to the variances in the development of the two different types of alopecia. However, others have a bit more optimism. Dr. Angela Christian, who participated in the recent study, used Xeljanz in ointment form as a hair growth treatment on lab mice who had skin engineered to be like that of balding men. The results were very promising, and the mice all experienced hair growth on the half of their bodies that were rubbed with the Xeljanz ointment. However, there is still much research and lab work to be done, especially considering the difference between the paper-thin skin of mice and the thick, oily and fat-padded skin of human heads. Research funding for something like a cure for male pattern baldness is hard to come by because its mostly a cosmetic issue and not a chronic or deadly disease—despite there being many psychological and social effects on the men who have it. However, these recent advancements give hope to those who have lost their hair that perhaps a simple fix is in the near future.
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