DKK-1 Inhibition and Hair Growth

Past hair loss research has concluded that Dickkopf 1 (DKK-1) inhibition promotes scalp hair growth. Dickkopf-related protein 1 is encoded by the DKK1 gene. The latter is the most up-regulated gene in androgenetic alopecia,

DKK-1 Hair Loss
DKK-1 and hair loss. Source: JID.

A South Korean team of researchers has written a number of papers for more than a decade on the connection between DKK-1 and hair loss. Their well known 2008 findings concluded that DHT-inducible DKK-1 is involved in DHT-driven balding. Their 2012 paper was titled Dickkopf 1 promotes regression of hair follicles.

More recently, a 2016 paper from Egypt found that levels of DKK-1 were higher than normal in humans with both androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and alopecia areata (AA) types of hair loss. It was also higher in AGA cases versus AA cases. DKK-1 was higher in males with AGA compared to females with AGA. Another 2019 paper from Egypt also reached similar conclusions.

A famous 2013 study from University of Pennsylvania found that by disrupting Wnt signaling in an animal model using the DKK-1 inhibitor, hair growth was prevented. However, stem cells were still maintained within the dormant hair follicles. When DKK-1 was subsequently removed, the Wnt/β-catenin pathway resumed normal function. i.e., stem cells reactivated and hair growth was restored. More here.

Interestingly, three of the co-authors of the above paper are also listed as co-inventors on a patent related to using DKK1 to reduce body hair growth.

New DKK-1 Hair Growth Patent

The reason I decided to write this post is due to a new DKK-1 related patent that was recently granted to a South Korean company called Bioneer (h/t reader “Andre”). On Bioneer’s website, I do not currently see anything related to hair loss products or research.

The patent has many pages with a lot of great information. My favorite sentence (with slight grammar modification) regarding the invention:

“A double-stranded oligonucleotide construct or the nanoparticle as an active ingredient according to the present invention. It highly efficiently suppresses the expression of DKK1, without side effects. And it is remarkably effective for preventing hair loss and promoting hair growth.”

DKK-1 Inhibition

There is significant interest in the treatment of hair loss via countering or inhibiting DKK-1. Studies have looked at existing natural (e.g., ginseng extract) and synthetic products.

Which brings me to my past post on creating the ultimate hair loss drug cocktail. The reader who sent me the lengthy and detailed spreadsheet that I pasted in that post had the following suggestions for inhibiting DKK-1:

  • Tianeptine.
  • L-Threonate.
  • Vitamin D3.

I have not done much research on this subject, so perhaps the knowledgeable readers can verify if the above makes sense.

Further Research

Forum threads such as this one on BTT also have many suggestions that I have not explored in any detail. As readers comment on this post, I will add more details about specific recommendations.

Interestingly, Dr. Cole’s Wnt Spray product on Amazon claims to reduce DKK1 activity by 21%.

Stemson Therapeutics: Hair Follicles from Stem Cells

I have covered either Stemson Therapeutics or its founder Dr. Alexey Terskikh at least once a year since 2015. I consider this company to be among the most likely ones in the world to develop a hair loss cure.

Update: Stemson just got another $7.5 million in funding from Allergan and Fortunis Capital. h/t reader “James”. Quote from the CEO of Fortunis:

“Stemson’s novel cell therapy approach to treat hair loss has game-changing potential.”

CEO Geoff Hamilton said the following:

“Stemson has established the biological and technical building blocks which are needed to solve the problem of hair loss. A truly curative solution is now feasible.”

We have heard similar praise from a number of other company CEOs during the past decade. So no use in getting hopes raised this early in the process.

Note that Allergan is involved in the hair loss world via investments in a significant number of upcoming companies and technologies.

Stemson Therapeutics Hair Multiplication
Stemson Therapeutics Hair Multiplication via Dermal Papilla Cells. Source: Company Presentation, 2021.

September 14, 2020

Stemson Therapeutics Patent Approved

Earlier today, Stemson Therapeutics announced that its cornerstone patent had received approval in the US. (h/t reader “Ben”).

This patent (No. 10716808) is titled “Methods and compositions to modulate hair growth”. The technology is licensed exclusively from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

The process outlined in this patent entails a novel process to differentiate Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) into dermal papilla cells (DPCs). The latter cells control hair follicle generation and hair cycling.

Considering that Stemson is yet to even start human clinical trials, I do not expect this product to come to market any time soon. However, the scientific research behind this company’s technology seems to be solid, and the company itself is well funded (see further below).

On the company’s news page, last week they announced the hiring of Dr. Meghan Samberg as Vice President of R&D and Preclinical Development.

June 27, 2019

Stemson TherapeuticsDuring the last 30 days, we have received positive updates from: Aclaris Therapeutics; Dr. Lowry (new company Pelage Pharmaceuticals); Follica; Polichem; and Shiseido.

We also had a positive story from Columbia University (Dr. Angela Christiano) this week that I did not cover. It pertain to past research on JAK-STAT signaling and hair regrowth. I did not think that we could have a more inspiring month than we have just had in the world of hair loss cure research.

Stemson Therapeutics has Arrived

I might have been wrong.

Perhaps the biggest story of the year is the fact that Stemson Therapeutics is now a reality, and they have officially launched their website. I originally covered this company in October 2018.

Moreover, Stemson has secured a multi-million dollar investment from pharmaceutical giant Allergan.

I have covered the co-founder of Stemson Therapeutics, Dr. Alexey Terskikh, numerous times in the past. He kindly gave me an interview in 2017, in which he mentioned that the biggest thing holding them back was lack of sufficient funding.

I have asked Dr. Terskikh to give us another interview soon and hopefully he will accept. Earlier this month, he told me that his lab was given a podium presentation at the ISSCR conference on June 27th, and were about to launch their new website around the same time. However, he did not mention the below surprising development.

Functional Hair Follicles Grown from Stem Cells

Functional hair follicles grown from stem cells.
Functional hair follicles grown from stem cells. Image from Sanford Burnham’s Twitter post.

Earlier today, San Diego based Sanford Burnham Prebys published a what seems to be groundbreaking new article: Functional Hair Follicle Grown from Stem Cells. Note that this research institute is affiliated with Dr. Terskikh. More on their Twitter account.

The breakthrough is because scientists from Sanford Burnham have created natural-looking hair that grows through the skin using human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). According to the article, this “could revolutionize the hair growth industry”.

Unlike in past experiments where new hair growth was underneath the skin, haphazard, and disorderly, the current results produced hair growing above the skin in a uniform pattern. The breakthrough was achieved by using a biodegradable 3D scaffold that guided hair growth through the skin in its preferred direction.

Actual paper is here. Lead researcher is a Dr. Antonella Pinto.

The current protocol is based on mouse epithelial cells combined with human dermal papilla cells. However, the derivation of the epithelial part of a hair follicle from human iPSCs is currently underway in the Terskikh lab. Key quote from the article from today:

“Combined human iPSC-derived epithelial and dermal papilla cells will enable the generation of entirely human hair follicles, ready for allogenic transplantation in humans.”

Make sure to read about the difference between autologous and allogenic. Stemson Therapeutics has licensed the above technology from Sanford Burnham.