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.
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.