With millions of dollars being spent on hair loss treatments around the world. The constant question is when is there going to be a cure for hair loss? Existing medicines for treating hair loss have limited effectiveness. They require ongoing use for the benefits of the treatment to continue.
Researchers have been looking to gain a greater understanding of how the hair growth cycle is controlled. In recent years there have been a number of discoveries as to why hair loss occurs. These may lead to a breakthrough treatment.
Protein Turns Hair On
Researchers from University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have identified a protein called KROX20. Which switches on cells in the skin and tells them to become hair. Furthermore, these hair precursor cells then go on to produce a protein. Called stem cell factor (SCF), which plays a critical role in hair pigmentation.
“With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems,” said Dr. Lu Le, associate professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern. Future work by the team will focus on finding out whether KROX20 and the SCF gene stop functioning properly and lead to male pattern baldness.
Research has developed a technique to generate new hair using pluripotent stem cells. This method has been developed from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in San Diego, CA. Would provide an unlimited source of cells without being limited to transplanting follicles from one part of the head to another.
Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program at Sanford-Burnham. “We developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice,” said Prof. Terskikh. The next step in their research is “to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects.”
The genetic pattern of hair loss
Discovered genes by researchers have identified links with hair structure and development. A study led by the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom discovered 287 genetic regions. All involved in male pattern baldness.
The findings could help to predict a man’s likelihood of experiencing severe hair loss. As a result, they could also provide new targets for drug developments to treat baldness.
According to investigators from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York City, NY. hair growth can be restored by inhibiting the Janus kinase (JAK) family of enzymes that are located in hair follicles,
Tests with mouse and human hair follicles showed that applying JAK inhibitors directly to the skin promoted “rapid and robust hair growth.” Two JAK inhibitors that are approved by the FDA include ruxolitinib (for the treatment of blood diseases), and tofacitini (for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis).
In a small clinical trial, found that treating moderate to severe alopecia areata with ruxolitinib triggered an average hair regrowth of 92%, reported by Angela M. Christiano, Ph.D. – the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and professor of genetics and development at CUMC.
There are plans to expand the studies by Prof. Christiano and the team to include testing JAK inhibitors in other conditions and pattern baldness.