South Korean Scientists Develop Biochemical Material to Target CXXC5 and Consequently Activate the Wnt Pathway

Edit: It seems like this study was first published in June 2017 (see “omg”‘s comment in this post). Not sure why they now have this newer November 2017 publication date, nor why the global media only covered it so intensively this past week. Anyway, well done “omg” for being ahead of the curve.

Update: A Reddit thread on this went bonkers with over 2,500 comments.


Last week, several of my alerts led to South Korean websites that discussed new successful local research targeting the Wnt pathway to reverse hair loss. Since I very recently wrote a post concerning the Wnt pathway, I was planning to save this news for my next “brief items of interest” post.

However, first reader “Malcolm” emailed me and said that this development was worth its own post. Thereafter, in the past week, four different people commented about this news. And there are now many brief online news articles being published on this subject daily it seems. So I decided it was worth writing a second post related to Wnt in less than a month.

Targeting of CXXC5 by a Competing Peptide Stimulates Hair Regrowth

The actual paper was published in the prestigious Journal of Investigative Dermatology. South Korean scientists found that CXXC-type zinc finger protein 5 (CXXC5) is a negative regulator of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. In fact, CXXC5 is upregulated in both thinning hair and arrector pili muscles in balding scalps.

The scientists managed to disrupt something termed as the “CXXC5-Dishevelled interaction” with a newly developed competitor peptide biomaterial called PTD-DBM. This resulted in activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and accelerated hair regrowth and wound-induced hair follicle neogenesis in mice. Yet more evidence on the benefits of wounding?

Interestingly, at the start of the above paper, they also mention the famous hair loss researcher Dr. Luis Garza and his recent paper (co-authored with Dr. Dangwon Kim) titled “The Negative Regulator CXXC5: Making WNT Look a Little Less Dishevelled“. Perhaps Dr. Garza is also collaborating on this research?

Valproic Acid and Hair

Also of interest, the scientists added valproic acid into the mix and found that it sped up hair growth in the mice. There has been some evidence on the benefits of valproic acid to scalp hair in the past. In fact a seminal work on the subject also came from South Korea in 2014, when scientists found that topical valproic acid increases hair counts in balding men. Apparently, valproic activates the activates the Wnt/β-catenin pathway (and inhibits glycogen synthase kinase 3β).

South Korean Sources

Below are some of the online South Korean sites that covered this story. This research must be significant enough to be covered in so many local sources. Moreover, while the research team was led by Dr. Kang-Yell Choi of Yonsei University, some of the below sources suggest involvement of the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning in this work.

Future Drug Development

The UK’s Metro newspaper covered this story today. Key quote from Kang-Yell Choi, the main researcher involved:

“We have found a protein that controls the hair growth and developed a new substance that promotes hair regeneration by controlling the function of the protein. We expect that the newly developed substance will contribute to the development of a drug that not only treats hair loss but also regenerate damaged skin tissues”.

Mr. Kang-Yell Choi seems to have many patents related to the Wnt/β-catenin pathway to his name. He even has his own wikipedia entry.

93 thoughts on “South Korean Scientists Develop Biochemical Material to Target CXXC5 and Consequently Activate the Wnt Pathway”

    1. These guys are so far behind the eight ball they might as well being playing on a separate billiard table. There are a lot of other products in front of these guys, many which are much more promising, that should be out before this comes on-line. What interests me about this is, if one of the groups working on growing a full head of hair in the laboratory then transplanting it on the scalp succeeds in the next five years or so, how will this new hair be prevented from falling out like the hair before it did? Products like these might be a useful co-therapy.

      1. I wonder if anyone passes all these developments to people like Follica? Like people who could actually use this somehow to improve their current research or product…

  1. How do set this up to get notifications? Anyway…I came across someone who cites research saying CO2 plays a role in hair loss. Idk if I can copy and paste the video or send you a direct message with the link of video.

  2. At the very least, this will persuade Shiseido, Replicel, Follica and the other players still in the game that they cannot just stand still. Get results or be confined to history.

  3. Great news. Wondering if anyone has tried using valproic acid as a topical and can report on their results. It seams to have a low risk of side effects (especially used as topical) and has proven to be effective at activating Wnt/β-catenin pathway. I’m not sure how to obtain any other then trying to get the pills and dissolve into some ethanol solution etc.. As a drug that is currently available at some capacity and proven to be beneficial to stop hairloss I’m wondering why there isn’t more info on people trying this… anyone?

    1. I’m using VPA (7% dissolved in ethanol) .
      And… It’s works. But i’m using it for pseudo neoginesis (i.e velus to terminal hair transformation) on my temples.
      But VPA do nothing to CXXC5.

  4. tricology is like middle ages of medicine…this is another proof science didnt give a about hairloss until start of last decade..no one did spend money in hair loss research ,
    this is very strange if you think how much money is to be made in this field..

    1. if you search on google you will notice that a group of greek people on hairsite already gave it a try in 2012 with topical valproic acid.
      valproic acid doesnt seem to be lipophyle so you might need a specific vector to get through membranes.. its not that easy

      1. Not as stupid as it sounds. Experimentation on people is what the scientists should do. Otherwise the next Alzheimer’s cure, the next cancer cure, the next hair loss cure will only work on mice. If there are legal issues then outsource it.

        1. the problem isnt really the research for hairloss, but for devastating diseases like cancer, aids, colera, would you be willing to try yourself chemicals that could possibly kill you, or let yourself inject some HIV virus to see how you react to the next generation pills.. thats why we need animals, next step will be the creation of organs , only then animal testing will end (to the most)

            1. All scientists working in this field will advance soon hopefully. It’s a much better target for our disease and you know it.

  5. There was a few threads back I think in 2013 if you google Topical valproic acid for hairloss. I think a group pitched together and bought some and synthesized it into a topical. If there is s pill form used for epilepsy could you not turn dissolve that and create a topical simulate to how people make RU?

  6. I think a super robust cure will come as a byproduct of the new biotech revolution. Ie crispr, machine learning, organ on a chip, bio printing etc. People should just chill and wait it out.

    1. Or by mistake, or perhaps you meant that as well. Remember that Finasteride was originally invented to treat enlarged prostates, only to find the long term patients kept good hair.

      Similarly, scientists have recently discovered that a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s can regenerate rotten teeth.

  7. Bruno your talking about gene dna manipulation etc. We are just scratching the surface with that. It will be many many years before that will be approved to treat a cosmetic issue.

  8. After many days visited this site. Can you guys tell me when the cure will be available ? Is Riken still in the right path to introduce their treatment within 2020 ? What about the status of Follica ?

    1. Come back late next year. Given the players who are promising results by 2018, there will either be a cure or less players in the game to read up on.

  9. a new person has come out microbiologist named Brian Hanely used CRISPR to edit his genes for endurance and life span https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/11/personal-crispr-genetic-experimentation.html

    For all of you that keep speculating on how far off CRISPR and the like is – It’s amusing to read articles of crazy scientist already injecting themselves.

    Admin, a little update for you since you may or may not be following. Dr. Bill Andrews work was licensed and started clinical trials in Colombia this month. 25 years of research being tested right now. This is a pivotal moment for telomere research.

  10. I find it interesting that this is the second time (or third depending upon how you count) this year that a specific mechanism affecting hair growth has been discovered along with a drug/protein that acts on the discovered mechanism. It seems like most of what we have heard over the past 20 years is that scientists had discovered only the mechanism or pathway. While adding to the overall body of knowledge, these discoveries didn’t seem to put us much closer to an actual treatment. By my count, it would be reasonable to assume there could be as many as 5 clinical trials in 2018 where it is possible, by 2018 year end, to finally have undeniable photographic evidence of a moderate to big breakthru that works on a consistent basis : 1) South Korea – PTD-DBM; 2) UCLA – RCGD423; 3) UCLA – UK5099 (same mechanism, different drug); 4) Aclaris – ATI-50002; 5) Follica – Disruption + unknown topical. While the first 3 possibilities haven’t announced a start date for clinical trials yet, I would think these would be on a very fast track to deliver proof of concept.

    1. Proof of concept that can be seen with the naked eye rather than an intense microscope. Sorry PRP and ACell and Minoxidil and laser cap – you were just not good enough. I like the industry term “cosmetically insignificant”.

  11. “Cosmetically insignificant”, is the perfect term for it. I wish I had spent my money on extending a surf trip in Asia last year instead of PRP. You’d get better results squashing blood plums onto your scalp.

  12. Only things that have a chance to hit the market in the next 2 years is follica and sisheido. The rest haven’t even started trials yet. So 10 years for those like the Korean study which sounds very promising. Jak will skip a phase which is awesome but that is 5 years away if it works…

    1. Exactly. I’d say that if you’re in your early/mid 20s, early/mid 30s, etc. and hoping to get back or keep a respectable amount of hair before you hit your next decade, Follica and Shiseido are going to be your only options aside from conventional treatments.

      The good news is that a combination of these things should amount to a functional cure.

      The bad news is that the other technologies are either a total crapshoot and/or so far off that it’s ostensibly irrelevant to the current generation of young adults.

        1. What about Tsuji?

          Even if they make the 2020 release date, most people are not going to be able to afford such a colossally expensive treatment that requires travel and stay to one of the most expensive countries on Earth. They aim to treat just 10,000 people to start, there will inevitably be huge waiting lists for the few surgeons who will be offering it to begin with, it will take years to spread production around the world, and this is all easily found in the interview they did with HLT.

          and despite what some posters want to believe, a hair transplant that offers unlimited hair with complete control over its characteristics is something you charge MORE for and not less; basic supply and demand. A conventional transplant yielding any respectable advances of the hairline already easily costs you 5-digit numbers.

  13. Speaking of laser cap ! Has anyone had any success with one? Lately you see Joe Tillman ave a few others say they work , but I would like to see if anyone on here has consistently tried one for min 6 months and can report some success!

    Thanks a lot

    1. Yes I consistently tried one for a year. Biggest waste of money of all the things I have tried. Then I tried some hair fibre spray from Toppik and it made my full but very thin coverage into a full head of hair.

      Laser cap: approx £2,000, use every other day for 30 minutes, maybe see a result in 6 months under a microscope.

      ACell: approx £1,200, do once, maybe see a result in 6 months under a microscope. Proved to be so ineffective versus price that very few places still do it.

      PRP: approx £600, do once, maybe see a result in 6 months under a microscope.

      Toppik hair spray: £15 a can, 5 minutes to apply, instant results with 50% extra density.

      And if that is not enough, for 500% extra density for only £100 and instant results you can buy a wig and you get to choose a hair colour.

      If you decide to take the Toppik route though, take Finasteride as well. It needs hair to attach to. It does not work on a bald head.

  14. I wish we knew how much hair exactly can be regrown like complete horse shoe shattering reversal or a hair here and there ah just stay away from overhead lamps and you’ll be good regrowth.

  15. News from Aclaris Therapeutics. I got this information from the 29th Annual Healthcare Conference. It is the very last part of the presentation (24:00).

    “we know that at least in the early data in male or female pattern baldness jak inhibition seems to be potentially effective so we are kicking off a study with JAK 1/3 at the end of the last quarter next year to assess that.”

      1. I agree guest99. I think cots said jak wont work that well for aga. I think it will work like minox growth and maybe more so for people with soley inflammatory hair loss. If they has a blockbuster treatment they wouldnt wait so long to do a lousy study. I’m sticking to cots for follica and sisheido.

      2. Guest99 you are the one who is pathetic. All your comments always insult people, insult companies and are immature. They said are starting trials in April 2018 you imbecile!

        1. Are you for real? Seriously, you are a tool champ. Guy right anove my post posted something that is pathetic, turns out he doesn’t speak English well. Go back to your hole you sad.

    1. looks like Nasa’s theory just got shot back another year, always something new when i come back dates move forward and backward.

      so follica and shiseido are the only guys left in the next 12 month table now?

      1. More specifically, the speaker stated that the trials will start at end of Q1. This means that trials will commence in March 2018

    2. I have listened to the conference. The speaker mentioned that Jak 1/3 will be tested for AGA in Q1 2018.

      The trials will start in the first months of the coming year!

      1. Oh my god if that is true I am really sorry. I’ve heard it like 10 times to make sure I quote it 100% correct but I am not a native speaker that is why its sometimes difficult to get when native speakers speak really fast.

        1. No worries Royaume. At least you made the effort to hear the conference unlike myself and several others on here…I have gone through way too many Aclaris investor conference audio presentations and slides in the past two years and was lazy yesterday.

          1. But now I guess that it’s worth to listen to this particular conference :) Just skip to the last two minutes, because the music is at the very end of the speech

            1. Yes now already listened and it confirms what we knew from my last post on Aclaris. Lets hope they do not delay and really do start by end of first quarter 2018. And Malcolm thanks a lot for always keeping on top of Aclaris news and helping me out:-)

              Wish the CEO Mr. Walker had given:

              1) A timeline of how long these Phase 2 trials will take to complete.

              2) Why their pipeline page still says yet to start Phase 1.

              1. You’re welcome Admin, we are all fighting the same battle.

                Now it’s time to commence a new post on this turn of events, as there are plenty of arguments that Nasa_rs, Matt and myself can contribute towards a cheerful xmas :)

                  1. Admin,

                    This is a huge news, that merits more than just a brief mention.

                    In my opinion, the most part of the conference that holds more value, is not the Q1 trial for AGA, as this was already mentioned in the previous conference.

                    In my opinion, the most crucial part of the speech, revolves around that brief statement, that aclaris has initial indications, that Jak (which one?) has the potential to work for AGA related issues.

      2. This is way more hopeful, that guy (and everyone else) shouldn’t use quotes unless you are using the EXACT words. Anything else is dangerous and contributes to the massive amount of fake garbage on the internet.

  16. I don’t know but its just a positive intuition. I feel that by 2019 year end admin will suddenly put up a special segment declaring that a cure has finally been discovered. This one is a very strong intuition. Optimism on full gear.

  17. I just want to say that this is the last month of the last year for baldness. In 2018 Aclaris will beat hair loss and in my opinion a lotion will be available by year end.

    This is it. Hold your head up high now and in 2018 we are about to get all our hair back.

    Bye, Bye Hair loss. Hello combs and constant haircuts.

  18. Adding, remember Aclaris is doing a Phase 2. And since it is a Phase 2 they are probably trying it over the ENTIRE scalp not just a small one inch area.

    Why people are not yelling this from the roof tops is beyond me. Aclaris should have the treatment officially announced by early summer 2018.

    For those who think it will take longer, NO. Why do I say that? They are starting Phase 2 in EARLY 2018 and it seems it will be over the Entire scalp. How are they going to keep it a secret when 100 bald guys get ALL their hair back? People, friends and families, are all going to keep it a secret? No way. People blab about anything, and I do not care about non disclosure agtreements. You see some blogger who had no hair suddenly have a full set of hair no one is going to notice or ask questions?

    Aclaris knows once it works that they have 1-2 months to make an official announcement to take credit for their discovery. And it only takes 6 weeks to work.

    Looking forward to 2018. The announcement will come fast. Be prepared for it.

      1. I think he is right.
        The guy who said that it is potentially effective actually did not want to mention AGA at all. He presented the whole pipeline but didnt mention anything about AGA. He said it when the question came more directly.

        They are sitting on a gold mine and they know exactly that its working. The only question is just how well is it working? Even according Dr. Brotzu all alopecias have something in common. He said something about insufficient blood supply and so on. Jak inhibitors seem to be the way to go. The announcement will come in 2018 and we will see before and after pictures. Best case will be similar results as the areata patients.

          1. Great news @Nasa_rs.Will they have to pass phase III trials? What is the price of the drug for androgenetic alopecia?

            We must have new treatments as soon as possible.

            Awesome blog @admin. Thanks for all.

  19. Haha looks like everyone sht their pants including myself when we thought they were going to do a small study of next year. Thankfully they will commence phase 2 by March 2018 :)

    1. Mm jones That’s it exactly

      This more than likely be a full scalp treatment, everything. And if it works Aclaris will want to to take full credit and quickly announce the success WITH photos to prove it. Otherwise all the participants will talk about it OR their friends. Can’t hide from being bald yo having a full set of hair.

      2018 baldness is gone.

  20. Man nasa i enjoy your optimism but you even said it in your last post “if it works”.
    We just don’t know yet.
    I do think they know more than they’re letting on and I thought the same way when Christiano was interviewed a year or so ago.
    But man if you’re right I owe you a beer

  21. It will work and will have an effect on aga. The question is will give it regrowth like Rogaine or grow back tons of hair or will it be maintenance? Those are the big questions. If it does grow back all our hair do you think they will let this hit the market. I see the ht industry lobbying the crap out of it to be shelved. That is my biggest fear. That we had cures all these years but some greedy company or industry blocks it. Maybe I’m just being silly….

    1. Mm jones the cat is out of the bag it’s too late to stop it. As long as they show proof it works then all doors swing wide open.

  22. Hey guys im Reading this blog so Long already, i Hope so much that in a few years some “miracle” solution will come Out…
    Iam NW III doing microneedling 1,5 mm 2 Times a Week (until few bleeding) and everyday minox twice since 4 months Something and i must Tell you that i think that its getting really since i started microneedling ( using minox more than1 year. But still Using minox sucks im tired of using IT everyday the Hair Just Looks dirty after minox. I really really Hope for Something that U dont need to use every day twice and with better results and less Side effects.

  23. So in 2018:Shiseido (Replicel) in Japan, Follica (RAIN) by the end 2018 and JAK inhibitors in 2018 too??Anf… Of course Brotzu lotion is a joke…

  24. Mjones now let’s not be silly. Threading isn’t going to give you all your hair back. But it looks like you will get a good amount back. This is a no brainer effective cheap treatment that can be available to all. But we need to demand it. It actually seems less invasive then prp. If we sit back and watch it will never come available to the public.

  25. Hi,

    Its psychological very hard when somebody says it will give all your back. It’s just to good to be true. I am waiting for the next dissopointment. This all fake news to make people more depressed about there hairloss

    1. You are right to be skeptical. Companies have vanished trying to pursue a hair loss cure that turned out to be rubbish. But technology moves fast. Remember the phones we had 10 years ago. Also laser eye surgery, dissolvable stitches, 3D printing all seemingly came out of nowhere.

  26. Ok.
    I used this email KYCHOI@YONSEI.AC.KR

    Dear Sir,
    I would like to ask about your last hair discovery. Could you tell me if you are going to test it in humans and when?

    Response
    ‘We hope to do that as soon as possible. But first need to prepare fund for the tests. Kang-Yell’

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