On the 17th of September 2014 in a Miami hospice, Guinter Kahn passed away aged 80; he was one of the co-inventors of the drug minoxidil, which can help hair grow. The health of Guinter Kahn was poor after suffering a stroke 8 years ago. He leaves behind two children, two grandchildren and his partner Judy Felsenstein.
The dermatologist immigrated to Omaha when he was just four in 1938 after leaving Germany. He studied medicine at the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1958 and went on to join the US army as a doctor before changing direction and specialising in the dermatological field.
He had to fight a company for co-inventory rights to the drug minoxidil, eventually winning and earning a small percentage of the vast profits, making his family life comfortable.
What is ironic was the treatment that he co-created; he was unable to use to prevent hair loss on his own head because of an allergic reaction to the drug.
The drug has its limitations, it works for many people, but it needs a financial commitment because of the way the drug works. If a person stops using the drug the hair loss resumes and is likely to continue to recede and fall out unless the treatment commences or a different option is sort. The time for the medication to take effect is a long period of around six months.
Why the drug works is not completely clear to the medical profession, but the idea is that minoxidil nourishes the hair and this increases the strength and the ability of the hair follicle to grow. The medication, originally designed to treat patients with high blood pressure, one of the side effects of the original treatment, which drew Guinter Kahn to the medication and the possibilities it could offer to people who suffer from baldness, was hair growth.
What is important is the understanding that this drug opened the doors for other possibilities in solving the problem of hair loss. The technology is continually improving and there are some great advances in the understanding of the medical reasons as to what makes the hair follicle grow and develop. It is with this more precise understanding of the process, which makes finding cures for different conditions easier.
If you are able to know why the hair falls out, then looking for a medication that can prevent this from happening is easier to develop.
Guinter Kahn started this journey into the development for a cure to going bald. Whilst this concept is still in the future it is no longer a far-fetched idea that will never happen, there are possible options, currently undergoing a lot of testing that could lead to the cure for some forms of hair loss.
It is a sad loss to see such an important dermatologist passing, but remembering all that he has achieved for the hair follicle and its longevity is a fantastic legacy and one that will continue to grow as new and exciting techniques develop in the future.