5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitors:
UT Southwestern researchers Dr. Jean Wilson and Dr. David Russell were instrumental in identifying the scientific underpinnings of a widely prescribed class of drugs known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, which include finasteride and dutasteride, to treat enlarged prostate and balding in men.
The key to both diseases is the conversion of testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a natural but potent sex hormone. Too much DHT can lead to both enlargement of the prostate, a disease known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, and balding. Dr. Wilson’s research first discovered that excessive DHT formation was the key cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Dr. Russell’s team discovered key genes critical to turning testosterone into DHT. These discoveries fueled further research to find ways to block DHT production, resulting in drugs such as finasteride. Other UTSW researchers, including Dr. Claus Roehrborn, now Chair of Urology, were then involved in critical research and trials to test the effectiveness of the drugs and bring them to market.
Dr. Russell is now Vice Provost and Dean of Research at UT Southwestern and Professor of Molecular Genetics. Dr. Wilson, a 1955 graduate of UT Southwestern, is now Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine. Both are members of the National Academy of Sciences.