The role of the SFRP1 protein in hair loss


The hair loss can be multifactorial and hereditary; therefore, its treatment is generally not so simple.

A scientific study conducted on the role that the SFRP1 protein may have on hair loss, could lead to a solution for this annoying problem.


The University of Manchester study

A drug currently used to treat osteoporosis has, among its side effects,a reduction in the activity of protein SFRP1, a protein-coding gene. This very protein can block the process of hair growth.

Researchers from the Dermatology Research Centre at the University of Manchester conducted this discovery through laboratory tests. They used samples containing hair follicles from the scalp of over 40 patients with hair transplantation. The hair follicles were harvested and treated with the drug.

What emerged from the researchers’ account is that those hair follicles were able to regrow thanks to suppression of the action of the SFRP1 protein.


An as-yet-undefined result

The scientists never called the results obtained from the study a cure for calvariety.

For starters, they stated that this turns out to be only the first result of the study and that, before really understanding the results, it should be further investigated. Also, it was conducted exclusively in laboratory, not on humans. There is, therefore, currently not enough data to describe itslong-term implications for hair loss.

Initially, researchers had done some studies on cyclosporin A, which has been commonly used since the 1980s as a drug crucial in the suppression of post-transplantation rejection and for the treatment of autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and psoriasis). One of its side effects ishair growth. This led them to subsequently conduct the study on the SFRP1 protein, concluding that it may cause the blockage of hair growth.

Cyclosporin A carried too many side effects to perform further testing; therefore, the drug for osteoporosis treatment was chosen for analysis.


The words of the researcher

Study author Nathan Hawkshaw, PhD, reported on the study, “A compound originally developed to treat osteoporosis, called WAY-316606, was discovered to antagonize the SFRP1 protein. Through the analysis, we identified the inhibitor of Wnt, the SFRP1 protein.

Therefore, we further investigated the function of the SFRP1 protein using a pharmacological approach. We found that it regulates the canonical activity of Wnt/intrafollicular β-catenin by inhibiting Wnt ligands in the human hair bulb. In contrast, inhibition of SFRP1 activity through the SFRP1 antagonist, WAY-316606, improved hair growth, stem keratin, and inhibited spontaneous HF (catagen) regression ex vivo. Through our collaboration with a local hair transplant surgeon, Dr. Asim Shahmalak, we were able to conduct experiments on hair follicles that were generously donated by over 40 patients and then tested.

Nathan Hawkshaw told the BBC that the treatment could make a big difference for people suffering from hair loss. “The fact that this new agent, never before considered among possible treatments, could produce these results is truly amazing!”


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