Hair Restoration Advances at the Cellular Level - 2017
2017 was a blockbuster year for the scientific understanding of hair loss and hair growth, with numerous significant laboratory advances happening all around the world. It can be a real challenge to keep up with these discoveries, so we have compiled an overview of some of the people, organizations, and teams that are making strides toward a future where a limitless supply of an individual’s hair can be grown in a lab, or a hairless scalp can be activated to regrow follicles.
While these scientific breakthroughs are likely many years from delivering solutions that are proven to be safe and effective for the average person experiencing hair loss, it is helpful to get a glimpse into what the future holds.
Dr. Colin Jahoda Rapunzel and Dr. Angela Chrisiano (Aclaris) – We wrote about these two prominent names in hair follicle research in the article, “Is a New Medical Treatment for Hair Loss on the Way?” The two are teaming up to develop a hair regeneration treatment that uses cultured cells from hair follicles. They have been highly successful in their efforts to use JAK inhibitors to regrow hair on animals in the lab, which has attracted sizable investments aimed at regrowing human hair using the same techniques.
Follicum – Many of the interesting discoveries in hair follicle research have come out of Lund University, and that’s due to its close association with Follicum. In fact, this Swedish biotechnology firm is a major shareholder in Follicum, something you probably wouldn’t see in a U.S. University. Follicum develops human peptides to stimulate and inhibit hair growth. The identical peptide is in trials for use in hair growth and for hair inhibition. The goal is to bring a topical solution to market that contains this peptide.
RiverTown Therapeutics Inc. – On its website, RiverTown Therapeutics states they are, “committed to using our proprietary combinatorial small molecule platform to regenerate hair by reversing androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) and other hair loss.” Their major advance has been the development of RT1640, which contains a new drug, RT175, cyclosporine-A and minoxidil. This combination was developed by the company’s founder, David Weinstein MD, Ph.D. In initial trials, 100 percent of subjects using the treatment reported satisfactory hair growth. Several even reported complete regeneration. The three ingredients in RT1640 are considered safe, which should move clinical trials forward.
Allergan – The Allergan product is Setipiprant, which they acquired when the company swallowed up KYTHERA a few years ago. Setipiprant, originally referred to as KYTH-105, is a pill that inhibits a compound (prostaglandin D2) found to be elevated in balding scalps.
Samumed – We wrote about Samumed in the story, “Samumed Continues Testing New Ointment, Seeking FDA Approval.” The SM04554 from Samumed is a topical, small molecule solution that is designed to activate the Wnt pathways, which grow hair. There have been mixed reviews and some skepticism following Samumed’s release of data from its studies. But they have lots of money backing them and some smart people in the lab, so don’t expect them to give up anytime soon.
Follica – Follica’s website boldly claims it is, “Forging a Path for New Hair Growth.” The Boston-based company uses the combination of micro-wounding and topical solutions with the goal of proliferating hair follicles. The bottom line: they believe they can activate hair growth from skin that has already gone bald. “The dogma was that you were born with the total number of hair follicles that you were ever going to have,” said Dr. George Cotsarelis, Chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania and Follica Scientific Co-founder. “Their loss was considered permanent. Now, we know it's not.” Follica’s treatment has two phases. The first phase is the micro-wounding therapy plus the compounds that are applied in a clinic setting. The second phase is an at-home topical solution and a device for application. They even offer a phone app connected to the treatments so follow-up treatment protocols can be tracked easily.
Replicel and Shiseido – Japan-based Replicel has been working on its RCH-01 treatment for many years. We wrote about it in our article, “Cell-Based Therapy Proven Safe, But Will It Grow New Hair?” RCJ-01 involves harvesting hair follicles. They isolate the dermal sheath cup cells (DSCCs) that surround the root of the follicle culture them in growth medium to produce millions of cells. These replicated cells (hence the name Replicel) are then injected into the balding areas of the scalp. Researchers in Japan have some advantages, such as specific legislation designed to expedite the trials for stem cell technologies, so it is possible that if Replicel’s testing proves effective and harmless, they could be among the first to market.
It is exciting to see researchers around the world pushing the boundaries on the scientific understanding of hair follicles at the cellular level. These are just a few examples of the interesting developments on the research front. Some, like RCH-01, are making progress toward potentially coming to market in the next decade. In the meantime, Arocha Hair Restoration is offering many advanced treatments and artistic hair transplantation.
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