Hair loss news first:
— By far the biggest news this month was the story that scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center in the US found that a specific protein in skin cells called Krox20 (also known as EGR2) turns on hair shaft progenitor cells and is therefore responsible for the initiation of hair growth on the scalp. Moreover, these same progenitors also produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF), which the researchers showed is essential for giving hair its pigmentation. Full study here. The research team was led by Dr. Lu Le.
There were 100 plus headline stories about this in the global media, and at least 10 people posted links about this story in two blog posts from earlier this month or emailed me in person. I always appreciate hearing about groundbreaking new information, but I wish people would at least skim through the comments for links and make sure the story is not so obvious and widely covered!
Many of the newspaper headlines about this discovery screamed that the cure for grey hair reversal is near (note that this is yet one new approach among many that are being considered to reverse grey hair) and I have covered some of the main discoveries related to both grey hair and the link between skin cells and hair growth on this blog many times in the past.
The main researcher involved in this work (Dr. Lu Le) was actually researching a very specific type of nerve related cancer before stumbling on these interesting findings. At the moment, Dr. Le’s bio page does not even list hair loss as an area of clinical interest for him! However, for those who were paying attention, Dr. Le made one of the main presentations at the recent SID annual conference. His “state-of-the art plenary lecture” was titled:
“Progenitors that Create a Niche for Hair Pigmentation and Graying”.
These findings have yet to even be utilized in any kind of pre-clinical trials, so I was not too excited about this news story and did not write a separate post on it. However, it should be noted that Dr. Le has said the following (and will therefore likely add hair loss to his areas of interest soon):
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.
— I got far more excited about a new study that came out a few weeks ago titled “The effects of hair regrowth with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy. Two case reports” (h/t commentator “omg”). Several before and after photos in there that I have pasted below. The key quote that struck me was:
“A literature review did show two cases where treatment with IVIG led to hair regrowth in alopecia universalis though there have been no case reports of patients with AGA having substantial hair regrowth with IVIG or other immune modulating or anti-inflammatory drugs until now“.
Of course the first thing that came to my mind was JAK inhibitors, since those have worked superbly on patients with alopecia areata (AA), an autoimmune disorder. Aclaris Therapeutics (US) plans to test topical JAK inhibitors on patients with androgenetic alopecia (no autoimmune component) in the future as long time readers of this blog know. Fingers still crossed on that one and hoping for the best, although I am disappointed that we have to rely on just one company (due to Angela Christiano/Columbia University’s sale of the key patents to Aclaris).
— Interesting new paper from Russia titled “Hair Follicle Reconstruction and Stem Cells“. Note that one of the authors is a Dr. Vasily Terskikh, who is not the same (as I originally mistook) as the far more famous hair loss researcher Dr. Alexey Terskikh. Most likely they are related since the latter is also from Russia and involved in hair research.
— New paper from Dr. Claire Higgins and team titled “Methods for the isolation and 3D culture of dermal papilla cells from human hair follicles”.
— New study suggests benefits of low level laser therapy (LLLT) on scalp hair growth might have a scientific basis.
And now on to medical items of interest:
— The much anticipated skin gun is back in the news. Apparently, “RenovaCare is applying to the US FDA for permission to use it in routine clinical practice. It will then look to obtain a similar licence in Europe”.
— A common anti-depressant called trazodone could also halt dementia.
— Interesting new CRISPR video: