Update: I e-mailed Dr. Omar Aljitawi to ask him two questions about this post’s subject matter. Then I sent him a second e-mail for further clarification. Below are Dr. Aljitawi’s responses:
Admin: Since most people in the world have not saved their umbilical cord at birth, how would they benefit from this technology? Would you extract their stem cells from the Wharton’s jelly found in the eyeball region?
Dr. Aljitawi: I have not looked into other mesenchymal stem cell sources. For those who do not have their own umbilical cord MSCs saved, it might be possible to use third party MSCs.
Admin: Is there any reason that this technology has not proceeded any further insofar as getting to clinical trials? Are you actively looking for funding?
Dr. Aljitawi: Funding is certainly one obstacle. Finding expertise in the area to collaborate with is another obstacle. I am working on these obstacles now and I am very optimistic that we can move things forward faster, hopefully soon.
Admin: If you do use third party MSCs, is there a chance of rejection? Is it similar to using someone else’s organ during an organ transplant and than taking organ rejection medications for life?
Dr. Aljitawi: It remains a concern. However, the hair follicle is immune privileged, so that might not be an issue.
Umbilical Cord Wharton’s Jelly Superior to Umbilical Cord Blood
In my last post I mentioned the potential importance of storing cord blood (which is a sample of blood taken from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord). In a surprising coincidence, today I read a highly interesting new study summary pertaining to umbilical cord derived Wharton’s jelly mesenchymal stem cells (WJMSCs) and hair follicle regeneration.
Wharton’s jelly is a gelatinous substance within the umbilical cord (as well as in the eyeball region). Typically, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are derived from 1) Wharton’s jelly of the umbilical cord or from 2) umbilical cord blood. However, there is a much higher concentration of MSCs in Wharton’s jelly in comparison to cord blood
Ectodermal Differentiation of WJMSCs and Hair Follicle Generation
In this latest study, the authors show the mechanisms underlying ectodermal differentiation of WJMSCs. It should be noted that in 2013, two of the co-authors (Aljitawi OS and Hopkins RA) of this latest 2016 study first showed that they could generate cytokeratin 19-positive cells and hair-like structures from WJMSCs in vitro. They summarized their results from 2013 as follows:
In one method, WJMSCs were seeded on a matrix isolated from Wharton’s jelly following decellularization. In the other method, WJMSCs were cultured to form spheroids. Our findings demonstrate that WJMSCs may have the capacity for ectodermal differentiation.
I have discussed 3D culturing and 3D spheroids many times on this blog in the past, and that subject is of foremost importance when it comes to hair cloning. For the scientists among this blog’s readership, the patent for this technology has some detailed information on the spheroid technology being used (especially in sections 0065 through 0067).
Two of the latest 2016 study’s authors (Jadalannagari S and Aljitawi OS) also authored yet another paper in 2015 outlining the potential application of WJMSCs for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
Finally, in this latest 2016 study the authors also note that “up-regulation of β-catenin and noggin, along with the expression of TGF-β and SMAD and inhibition of BMP4 could be the mechanism behind this ectodermal differentiation and hair-like structure formation.”
University of Kansas Patent and Licensing Options?
The main author of the above studies is Dr. Omar Aljitawi who is currently a professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center. According to his bio “Dr. Aljitawi also has been studying Wharton’s jelly matrix as a scaffolding material for tissue regenerative applications like bone and cartilage regeneration.” However, of much more importance is the fact that when it comes to hair regeneration, this technology might be for licensing or sale?! I say this because of a now deleted page on the University of Kansas Innovation and Collaboration (KUIC)’s website. Most relevant sentences/quotes on that page:
Application: Restore hair and treat baldness.
Benefits: The method can be used for restoring hair, which can potentially solve the problem of baldness.
Why it is Better: Current technology simply isolates cells from pre-existing hair shafts. This new method derives mesenchymal
stem cells from Wharton’s jelly matrix and stimulates them to produce hair follicle cells and hair structure. Hair
can be restored and baldness can be treated.
The inventors of this technology are listed as the earlier mentioned Dr. Omar Aljitawi and a Dr. Lynda Bonewald (who seems mostly interested in bones and not hair). The actual patent titled “Generating ck19-positive cells with hair-like structures from Wharton’s jelly” does not have Ms. Bonewald’s name on it.
The “licensing associate” for this technology is Dr. Aswini Betha. I am curious why companies are not approaching him or the University of Kansas to acquire this technology considering that the patent was filed in 2013 and approved in 2014?
The University of Kansas has now been added to the list of important hair loss cure research centers around the world.
Edit: There is also another 2014 study from India that suggests that human Wharton’s jelly mesenchymal stem cells promote scar-free skin wound healing with hair growth.