Scientists have discovered a new treatment that regrows hair, but a plastic surgeon, who specialises in hair restoration, suggests we are still some way off welcoming it as a suitable option.
The new research finds that, when treated with ruxolitinib, 75% of patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata had significant hair regrowth (around 92%).
The drug is ordinarily used for the treatment of myelofibrosis – a disorder that affects the bone marrow.
The study at Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC) coincides with other research from Stanford University and Yale University that tested a similar drug.
But although welcoming it as an exciting breakthrough, Dr Greg Williams, an expert at comparethetreatment.com, is cautious about the treatment discovery – and its side effects.
The plastic surgeon says: ‘I recently had breakfast in Las Vegas at the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) meeting with one of the lead researchers in this study, Dr Angelo Christiano, and we talked about the new treatment.
‘It’s very exciting with lots of potential and, in this study, the side effect profile of the drug when prescribed for alopecia areata was less than when used to treat myelofibrosis.
But he adds: ‘We must remember though that it is a small study and there needs to be further research before it can be seen as first line treatment for alopecia areata. It is also an expensive medication and the early indication is that hair loss can relapse if the drug is stopped, so maintenance therapy is likely to be required.
He adds: ‘Also at this time there is no suggestion it would be used to treat genetic male and female pattern hair loss. However, that's not so say it won’t be useful in the future or that similar drugs won't become available with wider indications for treatment.’
‘In the meantime, it is always advisable to seek the safe and evidence-based treatments that are currently available and always from a practitioner who has a lot of experience in diagnosing and treating hair loss.’