Androgenic alopecia or male-pattern baldness is a common form of hair loss observed in both men and women. In men, hair loss starts in a well-defined pattern above both the temples. Gradually, the hairline recedes to form a distinctive ‘M’-shaped pattern. Hair also thins from the top of the head, resulting in partial or complete baldness. The hair loss pattern in women differs from that in men, as the hairline doesn’t recede in females, but the hair becomes thinner all over the scalp. Androgenic alopecia in women rarely leads to complete baldness.
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This form of hair loss is associated with androgens, particularly dihydrotestosterone. Androgens are essential for normal male sexual development before birth and during puberty. They are also essential for hair growth and sex drive in both men and women.
The androgenic alopecia therapeutics pipeline consisted of more than 15 drugs in 2017. One of the drugs is P-3074 (finasteride), a small molecule derived from a synthetic source, which is under the Phase III drug development process. It is being developed by Almirall S.A. for topical application. It inhibits the type 2 5-alpha reductase isozyme, which, in turn, stops the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone in males with AGA.
Another drug in the androgenic alopecia therapeutics pipeline is RCH-01, which is being developed by RepliCel Life Sciences Inc. and is currently under the Phase II of the development process. The drug, derived from a natural source, is a cell replacement therapy. This is an autologous cell therapy, in which dermal sheath cup cells, responsible for the growth of hair fibres, are isolated from the hair follicles. As the sheath cells are immune to androgenic alopecia, they are used to synthesize the drug. They are isolated from the back of a patient’s scalp and used to grow millions of these that are reintroduced in the balding region.
Thus, as the pipeline grows, those suffering from the disease can hope to look relatively younger.