Lumigan eye drops could be used to combat hair loss

In the UK there are millions of men and women who are affected by hair loss. Although Male-pattern baldness is more common than female-pattern baldness, (affecting around half of all men at some point in their life), it can be a deeply stressing condition for both sexes and can often severely damage confidence and even impact on one’s social life.

However, there are numerous treatment options available to these millions of people in the form of Propecia and Regaine for males, and Dianette, Florisene  and Regaine for females. Today though, there is more hope for men and women around the UK who are losing their hair, after new research found that a side effect of the active ingredient in the eye drops ‘Lumigan’ may be utilised to create hair growth on the scalp.

Lumigan contains an active ingredient called ‘bimatoprost’, a type of medicine that is known as a prostaglandin analogue. Lumigan is usually prescribed for patients with ocular hypertension or open-angle glaucoma where there is increased pressure inside the eye. The bimatoprost works by decreasing the pressure inside the eye by increasing the drainage of fluid from the eye into the blood stream. If the pressure is not reduced then there is a great risk of damage to the optic nerve and then impaired vision.

One peculiar side effect though of the eye drops is the fact it can stimulate the growth of eyelashes, and now preliminary trials have already begun to see if bimatoprost can reverse the onset of male and female pattern baldness.

Lead scientist Professor Valerie Randall, from the University of Bradford, is a consultant to Allergan Inc which manufactures Lumigan. She says: “Bimatoprost is known to stimulate eyelash growth and is already used clinically for this purpose. We wanted to see whether it would have the same effect on scalp hair, as the two types of follicle are very different. Our findings show that bimatoprost does stimulate growth in human scalp hair follicles and therefore could offer a new approach for treating hair loss disorders.”

Androgenic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss in both men and women, and can strike in varying severity. The culprit for the occurrence of thinning hair is connected to hormones named ‘androgens’ and in particularly; dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This powerful hormone stimulates facial and bodily hair growth but has adverse effects on hair located on the head. It is believed that DHT initiates a process by which hair follicles begin to deteriorate over time and eventually stop producing hair entirely.

The promising aspect of the latest research is that it has been discovered that bimatoprost works on a quite different receptor that is unrelated to androgens. Prof Randall continued: “Even if the androgen receptor is telling the hair follicle to do negative things, the drug is telling it to do positive things.”

Bimatoprost has been applied to the living scalp tissue provided from donors undergoing cosmetic surgery. In merely a nine-day period, it was found that follicles that had been treated with bimatoprost grew a third more hair than untreated samples.

In addition, researchers discovered that follicles in a person’s scalp contain the same kind of receptors that respond to bimatoprost that are also in eyelash follicles. Prof Randall explained what this could mean for those who are losing their hair, saying: “This means that so long as the drug can be applied in such a way that it can reach the follicle, it should stimulate hair growth in patients.”

All that awaits now is the result of six-month long Phase II clinical trials, which are currently underway in the U.S. and Germany. The trials comprise of 220 men with male-pattern baldness and 172 women with female pattern baldness.  Comparisons will now be analysed, with some patients being administered a solution of bimatoprost on the scalp, some patients will be given an ineffective placebo, whereas others will be using the highly effective Minoxidil, the active ingredient contained in Regaine Foam and Regaine Lotion.

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