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In Allergan's Search for Baldness Cure, Does the Stumptailed Macaque Hold the Key?

There are few good indications to whether Allergan's Latisse could also cure male-pattern baldness. The stumptailed macaque (pictured), a monkey that goes bald, may hold a clue. BNET reported yesterday that Allergan is planning trials of Latisse (the eyelash-enhancing drug that was developed from glaucoma drug Lumigan) to see if it can grow hairs on the scalp as well as the eyelids.

To find out whether Latisee (a prostaglandin analog called bimatoprost) might work on scalp hair, and whether scalp hair, eyelashes and eyebrows are even the same type of hair, BNET asked someone who knows what he's talking about -- Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline. He suggested some reading in PubMed, which will leave bald men and the investors who want their money rather frustrated. Here's a summary:

The good news for competing drug companies is that Latisse is one of three prostaglandin analogs that are basically all the same.

In a study of 26 patients with alopecia to see if latanoprost could regrow eyebrows, only one showed a response. Patients had one eyebrow painted with the stuff, and the other with a control, "Only one of the latanoprost-treated cases showed partial hair regrowth on the treated side," the study concluded.

But this study suggests that alopecia patients' eyelashes don't respond to bimatoprost anyway.

The evidence in animals looks a little more promising:

Laboratory experiments with latanoprost have demonstrated stimulation of hair growth in mice and in the balding scalp of the stumptailed macaque, a primate that demonstrates androgenetic alopecia.
There was also a result in mice.

Unfortunately, there are good reasons to believe that eyelashes, eyebrows and scalp hair are all completely different. (Which would explain why bald men don't lose their brows and lashes.)

Lastly -- and this is the heartbreaker, although there still may be a pretty decent commercial application -- it may work better in women than in men.