Dr. Luis Garza of Johns Hopkins University

Update: April 27, 2020

Dermatologist Dr. Luis Garza from John Hopkins Medicine is among the 10 most renowned hair loss researchers in the US. Both the general media and myself have not covered him anywhere near as frequently as we have others. Especially compared to the “Big Three” of Angela Christiano, George Cotsarelis and Ken Washenik.

However, as a hair loss researcher, I respect Dr. Garza more than any other leading scientist. Primarily because he seems to have stuck with one institution for most of his career. And he does not seem to be affiliated with various commercial interests. Dr. Garza is especially well known for his work with PGD2 and hair growth.

Dr. Luis Garza Recent Interview

Yesterday, I discovered a great recent video interview of Dr. Garza with ideaXme’s Ira Pastor. It only had 508 views at the time of writing this post, so was missed by most people. Youtube has a goldmine of such barely viewed content that does not show up when people sort by view count.

At the moment, the below video has 25 thumbs up votes and 0 thumbs down votes. I agree with this percentage. This is the first time that I have seen Dr. Garza on video, which is very surprising to me.

Among the most interesting parts of the below video include:

  • Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and its influence on scarless wound healing and hair regeneration.
  • Wounding and hair growth aka wound induced hair neogenesis.
  • Genes involving dsRNA and genes involving skin retinoic acid production are both expressed at higher levels after laser treatment.
  • Organogenesis and limb regeneration to help the wounded.
  • The connection and similarities between hair regeneration, skin regeneration and organ regeneration.
  • Cells have a GPS type homing mechanism that tells them where to go and how to behave.


August 6, 2015

I have discussed Dr. Luis Garza’s work on this blog several times before, mostly related to his important findings about prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) and its impact on hair growth.  Dr. Garza is among the most accomplished and respected hair loss researchers in the world. He works at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  In fact he has his own named facility there called the Garza Laboratory. The list of projects that his team is currently working on includes several focused on hair growth.

Toll-Like Receptor 3 and Double-stranded RNA

Today, Dr. Garza and his team published an important article in the Cell Stem Cell Journal.  They have found that a protein called toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) plays a crucial role in the regeneration of damaged skin and hair follicles. TLR3 activates various genes (IL6 and STAT3) and signaling pathways (Wnt and Shh) that are involved in hair regeneration.

It is common knowledge that damaged mammalian skin releases double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is then sensed by TLR3. Besides the previously mentioned regeneration of damaged skin and hair follicles, TLR2 also plays a role in activating the immune system.

While most of the main work was done on mice, in a side experiment on humans, the Garza team found that “the expression of TLR3 was five times higher in scratched human skin cell samples compared to healthy skin cell samples.”

The Garza team also found that adding synthetic synthetic dsRNA to mouse skin wounds led to a greater number of regenerated follicles.

My two favorite quotes from Dr. Garza in the article:

It has long been known that skin damage can trigger regeneration.

The clinical translation of this work is promising because work has already started, says Garza. Drug companies are already developing products to activate TLR3 to trigger the immune system, and these same products could be tested to promote regeneration.

My least favorite quote from Dr. Garza in the article (although the “might” in there is encouraging):

He also made clear that the information might not be as applicable to conditions unrelated to scarring or to those whose hair follicles are lost from male pattern baldness.

The University of Calgary and Jeff Biernaskie

Update: April 2020 — Dr. Jeff Biernaskie and his team (led by graduate student Wisoo Shin) just made an important new discovery. They found that hair loss is caused by progressive dysfunction of message-sending fibroblasts due to aging dermal stem cells. Fully functioning dermal stem cells are required to maintain fibroblast populations. Actual paper is published in Developmental Cell.

Apparently, hair loss research to date has mostly focused on keratinocytes, the cells that make up the bulk of the hair follicle. However, a loss of dermal stem cells prevents production of new fibroblasts. Fibroblasts in the hair follicle are crucial, since they send messages to the keratinocytes. These messages tell the keratinocytes when to divide, which in turn orchestrates the repeating cycles of hair follicle growth and shedding.

These latest findings will also impact research into skin regeneration and wound healing.

Jeff Biernaskie, Fibroblasts and Dermal Hair Stem Cells
Dr. Biernaskie and his team. New findings that aging dermal stem cells and fibroblasts lead to hair loss.

Update: February 2015 — An interesting and fairly technical article on dermal cups and dermal stem cells. Includes a great summary of the recent work by Dr. Jeff Biernaskie as well as a brief mention on Replicel’s approach.


December 2014

Jeff Biernaskie and Dermal Stem Cells

Earlier this month, a team led by Dr. Jeff Biernaskie (from the University of Calgary in Canada) got their hair related research findings published in the journal Developmental Cell.  This research identifies the existence of hair follicle dermal (in the skin) stem cells in adults. These can potentially be targeted to stimulate new hair growth in areas where there has been hair loss.

More detailed information can be read via the Calgary Herald.

Although this was interesting research that was widely covered in the media, I was not too impressed. Besides the fact that this was yet again research only done in mice, it seems like Dr. Biernaskie himself is a professor in the veterinary department! Moreover, most of the articles that I read on this development suggested that these findings could only lead to a potential cure in 10 years at best.

With the seemingly exponential growth in science and technology in recent years, 10-year time frames are usually a bit underwhelming. Nevertheless, after writing my prior post on hair loss research at the University of Bradford, now seemed like a good time to praise a Canadian university. It should be noted that other researchers from Kyoto University in Japan; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US; and Université de Strasbourg in France; were also involved in this research.

More interesting, two days ago Replicel published an article covering this study. They think that these findings validate Replicel’s RHC-01 product, which utilizes dermal sheath cup cells.