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Battling Baldness: Glaucoma Therapy Shows Promise In Growing Hair

Male-pattern baldness, which is usually inherited, affects an estimated 40 million men in the U.S. One of the main factors responsible for male pattern baldness is an increased level of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. The production of DHT is encouraged by an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase.

There are two FDA-approved medications for treating male pattern baldness - Merck & Co. Inc.'s (MRK) Proscar/Propecia (Finasteride) and Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) Rogaine (Minoxidil), and these drugs work by inhibiting the enzyme 5 alpha reductase, thereby preventing the formation of DHT.

It was serendipitous discovery that yielded Minoxidil for male pattern baldness. Minoxidil was originally an antihypertensive drug, and in many patients, both male and female, it promoted excessive hair growth as a side-effect.

Yet another serendipitous story is in the works as University of Bradford researchers have discovered that Allergan Inc.'s (AGN) Bimatoprost, marketed as Lumigan, for glaucoma may be effective in treating male pattern baldness and other forms of alopecia.

One of the side-effects of Bimatoprost is that it induces eyelash growth, and it is this side effect that prompted the FDA to approve Bimatoprost for increasing the growth of eyelashes in 2008. This cosmetic formulation of Bimatoprost is marketed as Latisse.

Now, researchers have for the first time found that Bimatoprost at pharmacologically selective concentrations increased hair synthesis in human scalp follicles in culture and advanced mouse pelage hair regrowth in vivo.

Commenting on the study findings, study researcher Valerie Randall, said, "We hope this study will lead to the development of a new therapy for balding which should improve the quality of life for many people with hair loss."

The research report appears online in The FASEB Journal.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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