Scientists in the UK have stumbled across a new drug they believe can provide a cure for baldness.
The study at the University of Manchester suggests the answer could lie in an experimental drug designed to treat the brittle bone disease, osteoporosis.
There are only two drugs currently on the market that claim to treat male-pattern balding (androgenetic alopecia) - however both have known side-effects and often produce disappointing results.
The only other option available to patients is hair transplantation surgery.
Immunofluorescence of β-catenin protein (red) and cell nuclei (blue) in the human hair follicle bulb, the command centre for maintaining hair growth. Image: University of Manchester
The study at the Manchester university's Centre for Dermatology Research studied the molecular workings of the immunosuppressive cancer drug, Cyclosporine A (CsA).
The drug has been in use since the 1980s, however it often has severe side effects - including substantial unwanted hair growth.
The scientists discovered that the drug reduces the expression of a protein that blocks the growth of hair follicles.
CsA would not be suitable as a baldness treatment due to its other well-known side-effects - however the researchers found that another drug, designed to treat osteoporosis was even more effective at enhancing hair growth.
lead scientist, Dr Nathan Hawkshaw said applying the drug to a balding human scalp could promote hair growth without any of the side effects of CsA.
"The fact this new agent, which had never even been considered in a hair loss context, promotes human hair growth is exciting because of its translational potential," he said. "It could one day make a real difference to people who suffer from hair loss."
“Clearly though, a clinical trial is required next to tell us whether this drug or similar compounds are both effective and safe in hair loss patients.”
He said lab tests suggest the drug could begin promoting hair growth in "just two days."
The findings were published yesterday in the open access journal PLOS Biology.