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:
— JAMA Dermatology (@JAMADerm) July 12, 2017
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.
— 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.