As you might already know, there’s currently no cure for male pattern baldness. But that doesn’t mean scientists aren’t working on new ways to treat it—and someday even cure the condition entirely.
But that doesn’t mean that new treatment options aren’t worth keeping an eye on. After all, you never know which discovery might lead to a cure.
So we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting recent developments in hair loss for you.
You read that right—lasers. Devices made by brands like iRestore™, iGrow®, Theradome®, and Capillus® use low-level laser therapy to try to stimulate hair follicles to grow. It’s called “low-level” because the lasers aren’t strong enough to generate heat.
So laser helmets won’t set your hair on fire, but will they stop it from falling out? According to multiple studies going back all the way to the 1960s, the answer is yes—low-level laser therapy can help slow hair loss and promote regrowth without causing significant side effects.
But that research hasn’t been enough to win over the FDA. While the FDA cleared the HairMax Laser Comb®, one of the first laser hair loss treatment devices, for safety back in 2011, none of the low-level laser therapy devices for hereditary hair loss have been approved for efficacy.
Still, the research suggests that laser devices could provide a helpful boost to a treatment plan that already includes finasteride or minoxidil.
For most people, finding a bald spot is a wake-up call to seek treatment for their hair loss. For Professor Angela Christiano, a geneticist at Columbia University, it was the inspiration to find a brand new treatment option.
After being diagnosed with alopecia areata, a condition that causes patchy baldness (not to be confused with androgenetic alopecia, a.k.a., male pattern baldness), Christiano worked for over a decade before discovering that a class of drugs often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Janus kinase inhibitors (JAK inhibitors for short), was also effective against hair loss. Since then, many pharmaceutical companies have been studying the efficacy of JAK inhibitors against many kinds of alopecia in clinical trials.
So far, the results are positive, but there could still be a long way to go before these new medications are ready to buy. One promising study suggests that the best method of treating androgenetic alopecia with JAK inhibitors might be topical, like a cream or foam, rather than oral, like a pill.
No JAK inhibitors have been approved to treat hair loss by the FDA yet. But given the promising research, anyone looking for a new option for treating alopecia should stay tuned for more news.
A major limitation of hair transplants is that you can only rearrange the healthy hair follicles you already have. In other words, if you don’t have enough healthy hair to cover the parts of your scalp that are thinning or bald, you’re out of luck. And like any transplant, the implanted follicles could be rejected by the body, so it’s not like you can just ask your lucky friend with the full head of hair to loan you a few strands.
Professor Junji Fukuda of Yokohama National University thinks he’s found the solution: stem cells. Using the patient’s own cells reduces the risk of complications, and growing hair follicles in a lab means you can make as many as you need, without being limited to the number of healthy hairs a person has on their scalp. (This is especially useful for people who lost a lot of hair from an injury or burn.)
There’s just one problem: Without any external cues, stem cells don’t know what kind of cells they’re supposed to be. That’s where 3D printing comes in. Those endlessly-customizable plastic molds can be used to recreate the shape of hair follicles, giving the stem cells a clue about what they should look like.
But 3D printed molds can’t tell a cell if the hair should be blonde or black, or straight or curly—important details when you’re trying to grow hair that’ll look natural on your head. And even when scientists solve that problem, stem cells still won’t be an easy-to-get or affordable treatment for male pattern baldness anytime soon.
The main takeaway here is that a lot of exciting new treatment options for male pattern hair loss are in the works.
But if you’re looking for a treatment you won’t have to wait a couple of years (or decades) to try, we’ve got you covered. Want to get the only FDA-approved treatments for hair loss delivered to your door? Get started with Keeps today.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Finasteride is an oral medication used to treat male pattern baldness in men only. It is not for use by women. When used by men, finasteride is generally safe but it can also cause serious side effects, including but not limited to allergic reactions, sexual dysfunction, depression, and high-grade prostate cancer. Most patients find that problems with sexual function resolve when they stop taking the medicine. For full prescribing information, view the drug label information.
Photo by Julian Lozano on Unplash