You would’ve thought that science — which has, for the most part, conquered actual plagues with names like smallpox, rabies, polio and bubonic — would have done better with balding by now.
As anyone who’s noticed a few extra hairs in the shower basin already knows: it’s got a long way to go. We haven’t come that far from Propecia, the drug that might help regrow your hair … if you don’t mind an actual lifetime of erectile dysfunction (even if, disturbingly, you stop taking it).
Better things, though, are hopefully on the way. Below, a few of the most propitious.
SM04554 — it only sounds like a killer robot’s name in an Avengers movie — is a topical solution from San Diego drugmaker Samumed that’s currently moving into larger human trials after a study involving 300 patients showed promise. Two different doses of the drug showed greater regrowth in a one-centimeter-square patch of scalp than a placebo. One issue that researchers will look at is why, in this initial study, a lower dosage offered better regrowth.
Without Latisse, we never would have known that Claire Danes suffered from thinning eyelashes. Now the drug’s maker, Allergen, is studying whether Latisse can regrow hair on the scalp as well as it does on the rim of the eye. Plenty of people on YouTube are trying — but it’s not as easy as just rubbing the drug on your head and hoping for the best, since, among other issues, scalp skin is much thicker than eyelid skin. It can plump thinning hair, but not breathe life into a dead follicle. Cost is also a factor: a month’s supply for eyelashes is upwards of $150.
Google “hair treatment stem cells” and you will come up with a full head of results. One of the more successful — and credible — reports told of a Japanese research team who were able to tie hair loss to the age-related degradation of stem cells (specifically, by the “transepidermal elimination of stem cells via COL17A1 proteolysis”). The biology is tough for laymen to parse, but experts say it’s a step toward both prevention and reversal of hair loss.
Finally, Japanese beauty mega-brand Shiseido made big headlines when it backed the regenerative medicine firm RepliCel. After plans for a 2016 launch were delayed due to shortages of a critical ingredient, RepliCel’s CEO said in February that the company is now leading a 20-month trial of RCH-01, a hair follicle restoration treatment that will address male-pattern balding and might earn a Japanese market launch by 2018.
Cross your follicles.