Category Archives: University of Florida

Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1)

Late in 2014, I posted about Shiseido’s Adenovital product made with Adenosine in it. In fact the solid science behind this product, its popularity in Asia, and the good reputation of Shiseido all convinced me to add this product to the very short list of recommended hair loss products page on this site. While I was quite certain that this product would not be as good as Finasteride or Minoxidil for most people, I felt that it was very possible that it resulted in some new hair growth.

One of the studies in that blog post from last year suggested that Adenosine promotes the expression of several growth factors responsible for hair growth, including fibroblast growth factors FGF-7, FGF-2, insulin-like growth factor IGF-1, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

I was planning to focus more on writing about these growth factors in 2015, and lo and behold I got my first chance several weeks ago when a new company called Follicept (trademarked name) announced that it had developed a gel product that would deliver IGF-1 to the scalp and in the process bolster hair growth. I was highly skeptical about this company at the time and remain so. Even after the Bald Truth Talk forum thread on this subject took off (including some interesting posts from one of the company’s reps under the username “Follicept” whose real name is Devon), I am still far from convinced.

Update: Devon’s youtube video seems sincere and I hope he does not remove it.

For one, I am generally not a believer in new companies that are suddenly promoted enthusiastically in newspapers such as businesswire and are looking for funding/investors. Moreover, this company had not even started testing on humans at the time of the initial publicity, although they were planning to do so very soon thereafter. Also, while Follicept has some excellent material related to IGF-1 on their site in the FAQ section, I was quite surprised that one of their internal papers written by a  certain Grant Mangleburg starts of with the following sentences:

“Androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness (MPB) is a condition that affects up to 70% of men at some point during their lives. The condition is characterized by below-normal levels of androgens such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), testosterone, FSH, and sex hormone binding globulin at the dermal papillae.”

I would almost certainly say that the opposite is true… i.e., it should read “above-normal”. Am I mistaken or is this a particularly egregious typo/error as I suspect?!  I was also not impressed by the grammar and appearance of parts of their website, but perhaps I am being too picky here and should just be glad that there are more companies working on baldness treatments?

In any case, Follicept does have some things going for it. For one, the company is connected to The University of Florida and Prometheon Pharma. The company’s CEO seems very intelligent and accomplished. The Follicept product is also going to be very low-cost (comparable to the price of Rogaine), a great change from most other new products that tend to rip people off.

Most importantly, it seems like the company will not have to go through lengthy clinical trials, since IGF-1 has been used in humans for a while. In fact their are numerous studies supporting IGF-1’s beneficial properties when it comes to hair growth. So the product will quite likely be released by the end of this year as planned by the company assuming they get the funding they need. If effective, Follicept will also work for women.

One concern is that Shiseido’s Adenovital, while a very good product, never resulted in any kind of miracle result despite promoting the IGF-1 growth factor. Will Follicept be any better due to a possibly superior delivery mechanism? Can a new company that is still looking for funding produce something superior to a major established player such as Shiseido?

I am not a believer, but it seems like quite a few people on the forums and on the chat on this site have an opposing viewpoint. We are living in an age where it is increasingly easier for new players to challenge established players. e.g., Tesla versus GM/Ford/Chrysler or Uber versus Taxis or Airbnb versus hotel chains. So perhaps we will soon see more such new entrants in the hair loss world who succeed.