A “wonder pill” has been tested on three alopecia sufferers and restored the hair on all of them – and experts say a cure for male baldness is around the corner.
Yesterday, Mark Blake of The Trichological Society said: “It is a matter of time before we find a cure for male pattern baldness as well as alopecia. We know so much more about hair today and how it grows.
“We would like to think a cure could come within five years, definitely 10.”
He said experts believe the cure could possibly come through stem cell research.
Though there is no connection between the causes of alopecia – an auto-immune disease which causes patches of hair to fall out – and male pattern baldness, which is hormone driven and hereditary, scientists are now making important discoveries for both conditions.
Currently, there is a raft of treatments to help offset and treat male-pattern baldness, including medication such as the anti-hypertension treatment minoxidil.
However, the discovery of a cure would mark one of the biggest health developments in recent years.
But if it continues to be successful and safe, it will have a dramatic, positive impact on the lives of people with this disease
The alopecia wonder pill was discovered when US doctors did pilot trails on three patients after identifying the immune cells responsible for destroying hair follicles in people with alopecia. Within five months of being put on the drug, ruxolitinib, all three – who had moderate to severe alopecia – experienced complete hair growth.
The drug’s effectiveness was linked to the disappearance of immune cells that attacked hair follicles in the scalp.
US lead researcher Dr Raphael Clynes, from Columbia University Medical Center, New York, said: “We’ve only begun testing the drug in patients.
“But if it continues to be successful and safe, it will have a dramatic, positive impact on the lives of people with this disease.”
There are around 600,000 sufferers of alopecia in the UK, which is commonly treated with steroids – and they tend to have nasty side-effects.
These can include abnormal growth in body parts and the hair growing back frizzy.
One of the most high-profile British sufferers is Scots TV presenter Gail Porter, 43, who refuses to wear a wig or hat to hide her baldness.