Researchers Regenerate Ear Hair Cells via Increasing Progenitor Cells; Wnt Pathway Stimulation Also Involved

I had a somewhat unusual post already half written for today, but commentator “baldings” posted a very important link that changed my plans.

This new link pertains to an article titled “Drug treatment could combat hearing loss” and on the surface seems to have little bearing with scalp hair loss. However, hearing loss is usually caused by permanent damage to many of the 15,000 hair cells in each inner ear. In the article, the author discusses a new paper that is published in the February 21 issue of Cell Reports. In fact the findings of this paper are so important that the cover page of the journal has a photo taken directly from the paper:

In this paper, a team of scientists (from MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear) have found a way to regenerate tiny inner ear hair follicles via a drug combination treatment. This combination is a two step process where in the first step, a combination of drugs expands the progenitor cell population. In the second step, another combination of drugs induces the new cells to differentiate into hair cells. In one variation of the experiment, the second step was not even necessary because “once the progenitor cells were formed, they were naturally exposed to signals that stimulated them to become mature hair cells“.

I am pretty certain that I have read articles in the past about ear hair cell regeneration and might even have mentioned one or two of them in passing on this blog before. However, this particular article and associated study warranted its own separate post and stuck out for two key reasons:

  1. The researchers succeeded in regenerating mouse ear hair cells via creating new progenitor cells. This is quite astounding to me because in regular scalp hair loss, scientists have found that hair is not lost due to the death of hair cells, but rather, due to the death of progenitor cells. So if these scientists can create new progenitor cells in the ear that lead to ear hair regeneration, I do not see how they can not try to use the same method to create new progenitor cells in the scalp.
  2. The researchers accomplished their potentially ground breaking achievement via stimulating the Wnt signaling pathway. I have discussed that pathway numerous times on this blog in the past, since it seems to be crucial for scalp hair growth. Moreover, well known company Samumed’s hair loss drug is targeting that same pathway.

Will ear hair cell research and findings become applicable towards scalp hair cell research? I really hope so and this new article makes me think that the answer is: “highly likely”.

Brief Items of Interest, February 2017

Hair loss news first:

Update: Due to several people asking, I contacted Follica about their parent company Puretech’s latest presentation, and they sent me the following disappointing news:

“Hi! There wasn’t any news about Follica presented. The moderator was focused mostly on CNS.”

— In Aclaris Therapeutics’ latest webcast presentation from today (given at the Leerink Partners 6th Annual Global Healthcare Conference), the company’s CEO further elaborated on why they are so optimistic about “highly selective covalently bound JAK 3 inhibitors” helping patients with male pattern hair loss. More importantly, the CEO emphasized treating female hair loss and how that is even more distressing than male hair loss. You can listen to the whole presentation after registration, and also see the 42 slides in there. Main sections are a little after 16:30 minutes into the presentation and later on around 21:30 into the presentation. For once, someone asked a specific question about covalently bound JAK 3 inhibitors and male pattern hair loss. The most interesting quotes from the CEO:

“Most importantly, androgenic alopecia. Even though that’s traditionally not thought of as an inflammatory process, what they were able to find is that the JAK inhibitors were targeting the stem cell compartment in the hair follicle bulge and actually prolonging and inducing anagen”.

“Being covalently bound…its got a much better shot of not being as promiscous as the other JAK inhibitors“.

— Renowned Singapore based venture capitalist Finian Tan is a major investor in Samumed. I did not realize that he made the decision to invest in the company so suddenly. In his own words: “Only twice in my life I have bet so big on day one”. Poker champion, Samumed CEO Dr. Osman Kibar clearly has some hypnotic powers at his disposal.

— More developments in finding the genes behind baldness. On this blog I have covered several other recent such developments, including this interesting one from last year.

— On Hairsite, there is a great question and answer session with Dr. Paul Kemp of HairClone. Dr. Kemp also did the same on here a few months ago.

— After Hairsite’s revamp of its forum into a mobile friendly one late last year, the Hair Transplant Network is planning to do the same to its interesting forum.

— Several times during the past year, I have posted news about various doctors offering an adipose (fat) cell plus platelet-rich plasma (PRP) combo treatment for hair loss. It seems like this treatment was part of a US based clinical trial, but I never did too much research into it. A new article on this pointed me towards the main page for the actual website of the trials. They call it STRAAND , which stands for “Stromal Tissue Cell-enriched treatment of Androgenic Alopecia via Novel Deployment”. So far, six doctors are participating. However, unlike in other trials, it seems like patients are responsible for their own expenses.

— A small sample size new study from Italy on non-activated versus activated PRP and the impact of different PRP collection devices on the final result. Dr. Cole from the US is a co-author.

— Replicel CEO Lee Buckler writes his first article for the Huffington Post: “Will 2017 be the year of Cell Therapies?“.

And now on to medical items of interest:

US patent office hands win in CRISPR battle to Broad Institute and Dr. Feng Zhang.

Human gene editing receives US science panels support. If you have trouble accessing the site, another take here. One day later, a warning from ethicists.

DARPA: We are on the cusp of merging human and machine.

— From the respected “The Economist” magazine: “Printed human body parts could soon be available for transplant“.

— The long quest to create artificial blood may soon be over.

Trump vows to ease rules and regulations for drug makers.

— The tiny robots revolutionizing eye surgery.

Computer lets fully paralyzed patients speak for the first time.

— A lengthy article on Dr. Anthony Atala, with many photos

— First human-pig chimeras created.

— New study that provides further evidence of caloric restriction and longevity.

A Hair Loss Blog