Scientists may have just discovered a cure for people who have experienced baldness due to severe hair loss conditions.
The drug ruxolitinib has been found to restore hair growth in 75% of patients with alopecia areata, the second most common form of hair loss.
Currently there are no known treatments that can completely restore hair.
Alopecia areata can occur at any age and affects men and women equally.
The autoimmune disease attacks the hair follicles, often resulting in hair loss on the scalp. Some patients also experience facial and body hair loss.
In its first small clinical trial, a drug called ruxolitinib was found to restore hair growth in the majority of patients.
The 12 patients who took part in the trial were given 20 mg of oral ruxolitinib, twice a day, for three to six months.
Incredibly, three quarters of them experienced hair growth.
By the end of treatment, average hair regrowth among patients was 92%.
“Although our study was small, it provides crucial evidence that JAK inhibitors may constitute the first effective treatment for people with alopecia areata,” said Dr Julian Mackay-Wiggan, associate professor and director of the clinical research unit in dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).
“This is encouraging news for patients who are coping with the physical and emotional effects of this disfiguring autoimmune disease.”
After treatment with the drug has stopped, one third of those who had experience regrowth suffered significant hair loss once more - although hair loss did not reach pre-treatment levels.
“Our findings suggest that initial treatment induces a high rate of disease remissions in patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata but maintenance therapy may be needed,” said Dr Mackay-Wiggan.
“While larger, randomised trials are needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of ruxolitinib in people with moderate to severe alopecia areata, our initial results are very encouraging.”
Angela Christiano from Columbia University Medical Center hailed the findings as “astounding”.