Youtube is a never ending goldmine of discoveries. Some time last year, I stumbled upon a highly interesting video from Dr. Ed Park titled “The Hair Show” and bookmarked it. This video (see further below in this post) was published in June 2012. I was impressed with Dr. Park’s breadth of knowledge about hair biology despite his not being a hair specialist or dermatologist. His instructive presentation is also interspersed with some really funny images. Among the more interesting items in the first half of the video:
- 3:30 = A diagram showing the dermal papilla, hair follicle matrix, keratinocytes and more.
- 7:00 = A very useful table on hair throughout the body and what percent is in anagen (growth) phase verusus telogen (resting) phase in each region of the body at any given time. Also presented is duration of hair growth phase by region of body. Just prior to this table Dr. Park also present interesting facts about hair.
- 10:30 = He talks about hair loss being a sign of aging. Kind of true, but not always. Some people go bald in their 20s, but live very long lives, implying hair loss is not necessarily a sign of aging throughout the body. Also, some people who die of old age still have a very full head of hair.
- 15:00 = He talks about grey hair being a sign of the destruction of melanocytes (make sure you read my post on the cure for grey hair). He then gets in to DNA damage, TGF-beta, apoptosis and other issues that impact hair pigmentation. He includes some charts in there that are beyond my understanding.
- 16:30 = Quote –>”I would stop looking at the whole issue of testosterone and male pattern baldness…dry hole so to speak. Androgens are not the “root” cause of baldness.” All of us hair loss sufferers are sick of medications targeting dihydrotestosterone, and none of us are going to get castrated to stop testosterone production. So this statement from Dr. Park cuts through the chase. Moreover, most of the new discoveries and research related to a hair loss cure that I have covered in the past 2.5 years do not involve targeting testosterone or DHT whatsoever. We have now moved beyond that area of research that has held us back for decades. Dr. Park make a great point, even though I am not sure if he knows of all the new research targeting other pathways to a hair loss cure.
- 16:40 = He starts discussing telomeres and telomerase therapy, the main focus of the remainder of the video, and also the main focus of this post (see below the video for the remainder of this post). Note that Dr. Park has published a well reviewed book on this subject: Telomere Timebombs: Defusing the Terror of Aging.
Telomeres and Telomerase
Telomeres are repetitive nucelotide sequences (i.e., sections of DNA) at the ends of our chromosones that protect them from damage. In humans, this sequence is represented by the acronym TTAGGG (where “T” stands for thymine, “A” stands for adenine and “G” stands for guanine). As we age, telomere ends become shorter each time cells divide, and this finally leads to cell death. People with longer telomeres tend to have longer lives than those with shorter telomeres. You can get the length of your telomeres measured at some labs if you want, but this is not a good idea for hypochondriacs and those susceptible to anxiety!
Telomerase is an enzyme that adds the TTAGGG telomere sequence to the ends of chromosomes. Telomerase in effect replaces the short bits of DNA known as telomeres,
Slowing Ageing via Telomerase Therapy
Many researchers think that that reversing the shortening of telomeres through temporary activation of telomerase may be a potent means to slow aging. Among the ways to do this would include drugs, gene therapy and metabolic suppression. Increasing telomere length could even reverse aging, although there is a lot of controversy behind this theory. In any case, for those interested in this subject, two of the leading experts in this area of research have both recently published new books:
- Bill Andrews — Telomere Basics: Curing Aging (also see this great inspiring video on Mr. Andrews)
- Micheal Fossell — The Telomerase Revolution: The Enzyme That Holds the Key to Human Aging and Will Soon Lead to Longer, Healthier Lives
TA-65 — Does it grow back hair? Does it darken grey hair?
The second half of Dr. Park’s video above delves into Telomerase activation and how it can regrow hair and reverse grey hair. He gives a number of examples of this and even has some real patient testimonial interviews in there, including a 112 year old called Soledad Mexia! Unfortunately, she died two years later, but it makes Dr. Park’s video seem a lot more legitimate to have such a testimonial of someone who can’t possibly have been bought to provide a fake positive testimonial. One caveat is that Ms. Mexia only took the pills for 3 days per the video and it seems hard to believe that she got some darker hair so fast. Its also impossible to see the darker hair in the video, but I believe her family members when they say so.
I would discuss this interesting second half of the video a bit more, except that Dr. Park heavily promotes a very expensive and controversial product called TA-65 in the video and on his website. This product is manufactured by T.A. Sciences and contains a molecule called Cycloastragenol that is derived from a Chinese herb called Astragalus. There are numerous people (including respected scientists such as Dr. Bill Andrews) who believe in this product, but there are also a lot of nonbelievers. Amazon reviews (e.g, see TA-65 Telomerase Activation Capsules) tend to be mixed, and you have to be very careful about fake reviews on Amazon — especially for an expensive item such as this. More on the controversy behind TA-65.To be fair, there are also studies supporting the potential of TA-65: see this 2011 study showing TA-65 being beneficial to mice and another study from 2013 showing some potential benefit in humans.
In any case, in both Amazon reviews and on Google searches for terms such as “TA-65 and hair growth”, you will see positive and negative testimonials. In my opinion, TA-65 is not worth purchasing unless you make at least $200,000 a year and can afford to blow away this kind of money. It is also likely that other much cheaper products that activate telomerase will come to the market in the near future. In fact the price of TA-65 has come down from $2000 per month several years ago to under $600 a month today. Moreover, a newer much cheaper telomerase activation product called Isagenix Product B Antioxidants Plus Telomere Support has been getting decent reviews.
Note that in a Quora question and answer session, in response to the following question related to TA-65:
“Is the TA-65 yet proven to be effective in lengthening telomeres in humans?”
world renowned longevity researcher Dr. Aubrey De Grey stated the following:
“My information is that yes, there is clear telomere elongation. Whether that is a net positive for postponing age-related ill-health remains an open question.”
Footnote: Interestingly, Dr. Park interviewed Liz Parrish a few weeks ago. Below is the excellent video: