Update: April 19, 2022 — Scientists from Harvard Medical School have managed to regenerate inner ear hair cells that enable hearing (h/t “Rali”). They claim to have moved closer to a gene therapy solution for sensorineural hearing loss, although no human clinical trials have started as yet.
The research team was led by Dr. Zheng-Yi Chen. They reported creating a drug-like cocktail of different molecules that successfully regenerated hair cells in a mouse model by reprogramming a series of genetic pathways within the inner ear. The full study was published on April 17, 2023 in PNAS.
Note that the team identified and used a combination (cocktail) of drug-like molecules that was composed of small molecules and siRNAs. Make sure to read my past related posts on siRNA as well as on creating the ultimate hair loss drug cocktail.
Update: April 21, 2023 — Frequency Therapeutics phase IIb clinical trial results for FX-322 have been officially posted. A total of 142 adult patients were involved, 72 of whom got the placebo. The remaining 70 got a single intratympanic injection of FX-322 (laduviglusib 0.628 mg/sodium valproate 17.72 mg) into their hearing loss affected ear.
In February, the company announced that these trials did not succeed and the company’s stock price subsequently collapsed.
Update: March 29, 2022 — Update on MIT spinout Frequency Therapeutics and its drug candidate that stimulates inner ear hair cell growth.
February 21, 2017
An interesting new article titled “Drug treatment could combat hearing loss” seems to have little bearing with scalp hair loss. However, hearing loss is usually caused by permanent damage to many of the 15,000 hair cells in each inner ear. Regenerating those with this new drug therapy could also indicate a similar potential for regenerating scalp hair cells.
In the article, the author discusses a new paper that is published in the February 21 issue of Cell Reports. In fact, the findings of this paper are so important that the cover page of the journal has a photo taken directly from the research. Note that the lead scientists are also working on this technology via a new company called Frequency Therapeutics.
Ear Hair Follicle Regeneration
In this paper, a team of scientists (from MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear) have found a way to regenerate tiny inner ear hair follicles via a drug combination treatment.
This combination is a two step process where in the first step, a combination of drugs expands the progenitor cell population. In the second step, another combination of drugs induces the new cells to differentiate into hair cells.
In one variation of the experiment, the second step was not even necessary because “once the progenitor cells were formed, they were naturally exposed to signals that stimulated them to become mature hair cells”.
I am pretty certain that I have read articles in the past about ear hair cell regeneration. I might even have mentioned one or two of them in passing on this blog before. However, this particular article and associated study warranted its own separate post and stuck out for two key reasons:
- The researchers succeeded in regenerating mouse ear hair cells via creating new progenitor cells. This is quite astounding to me because in regular scalp hair loss, scientists have found that hair is not lost due to the death of hair cells, but rather, due to the death of progenitor cells. So if these scientists can create new progenitor cells in the ear that lead to ear hair regeneration, I do not see how they can not try to use the same method to create new progenitor cells in the scalp.
- The researchers accomplished their potentially ground breaking achievement via stimulating the Wnt signaling pathway. I have discussed that pathway numerous times on this blog in the past, since it seems to be crucial for scalp hair growth. Moreover, well known company Samumed’s hair loss drug is targeting that same pathway.
Will ear hair cell research and findings become applicable towards scalp hair cell research? I really hope so, and this new work is encouraging due to the involvement of the Wnt/Beta-Catenin pathway.