Category Archives: Maksim Plikus

SCUBE3 Signaling Molecule for Hair Growth

I have covered Dr. Maksim Plikus a few times on this blog in the past. I have also discussed Hedgehog signaling and hair growth in detail. Yesterday, a University of California team (led by Dr. Plikus) discovered a critical signaling molecule SCUBE3 that stimulates hair growth.

Update: July 29, 2022

Yet another update just came out (h/t “YoYo”). I like the phrase “digitize the hair“.

Update: July 18, 2022

New video titled: “UC Irvine scientists discover a possible cure for baldness.” Starring Dr. Maksim Plikus (h/t “YoYo”). And yet another one.

Update: July 7, 2022

Dr. William Rassman provided an update on Reddit on July 7:

 SCUBE3 Signaling Molecule Trials via Amplifica
Amplifica is a biotechnology company that was co-founded by Maksim Plikus and Dr. William Rassman. They plan to begin SCUBE3 clinical trials by the end of 2022.

SCUBE3 represents one part of the interconnected hair growth loop that also includes the hedgehog pathway, dermal papilla cells, TGF-β and Wnt5a. This interaction is shown in the below diagram from this latest research.

SCUBE3 Hair Growth
SCUBE3 signaling molecule stimulates hair growth. Source: Development Cell.

July 1, 2022

SCUBE3 Signaling Molecule Stimulates Hair Growth

University of California, Irvine (UCI) led researchers have discovered that a signaling molecule (which they call SCUBE3) potently stimulates hair growth. Most importantly, it may offer a therapeutic treatment for androgenetic alopecia, which accounts for 90-95 percent of hair loss cases in both men and women.

The actual study was published yesterday in Development Cell. The study team included health professionals and academics from UCI, San Diego, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

“UCI has filed a provisional patent application on the use of SCUBE3 and its related molecular compounds for hair growth stimulation.”

This study discovered the precise mechanism by which the dermal papilla cells (fibroblasts at the bottom of each hair follicle) promote new growth. According to Dr. Plikus:

“We revealed that the SCUBE3 signaling molecule, which dermal papilla cells produce naturally, is the messenger used to ‘tell’ the neighboring hair stem cells to start dividing, which heralds the onset of new hair growth.”

In people with androgenetic alopecia, dermal papilla cells start to malfunction. One of the reasons behind this is a major reduction in the normally abundant signaling and activating molecules. It seems like SCUBE3 protein microinjections are sufficient to induce new hair growth.

However, note that mice were involved in this initial work. The research team microinjected SCUBE3 into mouse skin in which human scalp follicles had been transplanted. This induced new growth in both the dormant human hair follicles and surrounding mouse follicles due to “hyperactivated” dermal papilla cells.

Per co-first author and UCI postdoctoral researcher Christian Guerrero-Juarez, these experiments provide proof that SCUBE3 or derived molecules can be a promising therapeutic for hair loss.

According to Dr. Plikus, there is a strong need for new, effective hair loss medications. Naturally occurring compounds that are used by dermal papilla cells for hair growth “present ideal next-generation” candidates for pattern baldness treatment.

More detailed research on this subject will be conducted in the Plikus Lab and at Amplifica Holdings Group. The latter is a biotechnology company that was co-founded by Plikus and includes Dr. William Rassman on its team. For more on Amplifica, see the section in this article titled: “Amplifica Treats Baldness with Mole Molecules.”


Hair Follicles Across the Body Talk to Each Other

The biggest news story in the hair loss world during the past month probably deserved its own post, but I could not schedule things in that manner.

Hair Follicles Across Body Communicate with Each Other

Last week, respected University of California Irvine based hair loss and stem cell researcher Maksim Plikus (who I previously discussed here) and his team published a ground-breaking study. Their heavily mathematical modeling based findings were that hair follicles throughout the body communicate with each other via chemical signals, with Wnt signaling for growth activation, and BMP signaling for growth deactivation. So belly hair, back hair and scalp hair all communicate with each other. Must make Ernie very pleased.

The New Scientist article on this development discusses potential drug development for hair growth (via “an approach that may spread waves of growth back into balding areas”) and ends with an optimistic quote from Dr. Plikus:

We now have a road map to optimise the levels of activators and inhibitors to achieve desired hair growth.

Note that if such drugs are developed, they will also be able to eliminate excess body hair, a common problem for balding men and women.

As always, the largely trashy UK based gossip rag Daily Mail seems to become an almost respectable scientific magazine when it comes to coverage of latest hair loss research related developments. Their title of this latest development is “Hair speaks through words and sentences“.

Other hair loss news:

— As if one major development was not enough, commentator “Royaume” posted a link to this study in which 14 lung cancer patients getting treated via immunotherapy (anti-PD-1 and anti–PD-L1) saw a large portion of their grey hair become dark again. The before and after photo (see further below) of what I presume is the best case responder is truly unbelievable and I would have assumed a fraud (it almost looks like two different people) were it not for the fact that JAMA Dermatology, which published the study, seems to have a solid reputation. It is almost impossible to reverse/repigment grey hair in substantial amounts due to melanoctye cell death, so this is a very surprising development. In fact, even Follica was impressed and retweeted JAMA’s before and after photo and I will do the same:

Immunotherapy has become an increasingly utilized and researched treatment for cancer in recent years. Moreover, of late, we in the hair loss world have also seen some major stories that suggest a potential immune system component to hair growth and perhaps even androgenetic alopecia (AGA). And now it seems that immunotherapy can sometimes reverse grey hair. Consequently, I continue to keep a track of Aclaris Therapeutics and their pending clinical trials on using specialized topical JAK inhibitors to treat AGA. As long-time readers of this blog know, JAK inhibitors have cured alopecia areata (AA) in many people in the past several years. However, unlike AA, AGA has historically not been linked to the immune system (until the recent regulatory T Cells — Tregs — related study suggested the possibility).

Interesting study from Iran related to growing hair in mice via injection of hair epithelial and dermal papilla cells.

Blimp1 before Wnt/β-catenin activation?

How Hollywood tackles hair loss.

— Good news from the FDA for Concert Pharmaceuticals’ CTP-543 alopecia areata drug trials.

— Despite all these developments, for the time being, hair transplants (and several drugs) are sometimes the best option.

— Always been a fan of stories about MTF transsexuals getting their hair, and of course the Daily Mail agrees.

And now on to medical items of interest:

FDA approves a gene altering treatment for cancer. A new era in medicine that involves altering T-cells and the immune system.

— Scientists can now erase specific memories from snail brains.

Snip, snip, cure. “We feel that we’re right on the precipice of a new personalised medical future”.

— Harvard scientists (including Dr. George Church): CRISPR–Cas9 encoding of a digital movie into the genomes of a population of living bacteria.