Stemson Therapeutics: Functional Hair Follicles from Stem Cells

During the last 30 days, we have received positive updates from: Aclaris Therapeutics; Dr. Lowry (new company Pelage Pharmaceuticals); Follica; Polichem; and Shiseido.

We also had a positive story from Columbia University (Dr. Angela Christiano) this week that I did not cover. It pertained to a study from 2018 and another study from April 2019 that I already covered several times recently in relation to JAK-STAT signaling. The first of these studies involves a new way of 3D-printing hair. Who knows when it will reach the public, but still worth a read.

I did not think that we could have a more inspiring month than we have just had in the world of hair loss cure research.

Stemson Therapeutics has Arrived

I was wrong.

Perhaps the biggest story of the year is the fact that Stemson Therapeutics is now a reality, and they have officially launched their website. I originally covered this company in October 2018.

Moreover, Stemson has secured a multi-million dollar investment from pharmaceutical giant Allergan.

I have covered the co-founder of Stemson Therapeutics, Dr. Alexey Terskikh, numerous times in the past. He kindly gave me an interview in 2017, in which he mentioned that the biggest thing holding them back was lack of sufficient funding.

I have asked Dr. Terskikh to give us another interview soon and hopefully he will accept. Earlier this month, he told me that his lab was given a podium presentation at the ISSCR conference on June 27th, and were about to launch their new website around the same time.

However, he did not mention the below surprising development!

Functional Hair Follicles Grown from Stem Cells

Functional hair follicles grown from stem cells.
Functional hair follicles grown from stem cells. Image from Sanford Burnham’s Twitter post.

Earlier today, San Diego based Sanford Burnham Prebys published a what seems to be groundbreaking new article: Functional Hair Follicle Grown from Stem Cells. Note that this research institute is affiliated with Dr. Terskikh. More on their Twitter account.

The breakthrough is because scientists from Sanford Burnham have created natural-looking hair that grows through the skin using human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). According to the article, this “could revolutionize the hair growth industry”.

Unlike in past experiments where new hair growth was underneath the skin, haphazard, and disorderly, the current results produced hair growing above the skin in a uniform pattern. The breakthrough was achieved by using a biodegradable 3D scaffold that guided hair growth through the skin in its preferred direction.

Actual paper is here. Lead researcher is a Dr. Antonella Pinto.

The current protocol is based on mouse epithelial cells combined with human dermal papilla cells. However, the derivation of the epithelial part of a hair follicle from human iPSCs is currently underway in the Terskikh lab. Key quote from the article from today:

“Combined human iPSC-derived epithelial and dermal papilla cells will enable the generation of entirely human hair follicles, ready for allogenic transplantation in humans.”

Make sure to read about the difference between autologous and allogenic. Also read my past post on person-to-person hair transplants.

Stemson Therapeutics has licensed the above technology from Sanford Burnham.

I hope there are no further major developments in the hair loss world till July 1, as I am about done for this month!

90 thoughts on “Stemson Therapeutics: Functional Hair Follicles from Stem Cells”

  1. Well, I’ll have a full head of hair in ten years when I’m 36, not bad (assuming it passes trials.)

    On another note, I’m now more interested in rejuvenating my skin to look youthful. Just Imagine, that you’re 65 years old and have a full thick head of hair, but in addition you have the skin of a 25 year old with no wrinkles. Life in the future is starting to look better everyday.

    1. Just go with a morning and night face routine.
      And after turning 30, start botox!
      You’ll be sixty and look like you’re in your mid forties.
      I’ve applied a face routine since I was 22 and my skin is flawless.
      I’m your age, 26.

    2. 21st century cures act is for cell therapies in the US. I bet they will be able to get this out quicker than expected. Still years away though.

    3. I am 50, trust me, you become less vain with age….

      At 60 you won’t care much, there is more important stuff in life….

  2. As a medical student I find the science behind this approach very exciting, however, as someone affected by hairloss, nothing that comes without a schedule truly gives me assurance. :-/

  3. This is fantastic news. We’ve been receiving a lot of updates from big players in hairloss research in a short period of time. I think this is a good sign.

    I am curious though why it’s taking so long for jak inhibitors to be marketed and used widely on patients with alopecia areata? For that condition it’s proven to work quite well already. I guess FDA trials can be slow.

    1. I learned in 1988 when rogaine came out that when you see “mice” and “could revolutionize the hair growth industry” in an article it means it’s a very long way off.

      1. Well that’s a generalization.

        First off, the reason it was hard to effectively treat aka “cure” Baldness, was technological limitations which enable better understanding for research. We’re entering the Biotechnology age, almost everyday a new article is published on micro/molecular biology. That wasn’t the norm 2 decades ago.

        Second, who knows what may happen with the FDA approval process. It so happens we will have more old people retiring soon (chronic conditions and unable to work), and a low Birth rate (same issue in Japan). I’d imagine America will enact new laws on Biotechnology FDA rules, similar to Japan due to economic issues due to these factors.

        Third, you may become close to becoming Biologically immortal in your lifetime. Imagine being bald for 25 years, but living to be 1,000 years old.

        25/1000= 1/40th of your life you’d be bald, that’s not significant. That’s only 2 years with today’s lifespan.

  4. What happened to Aclaris? Pictures look good yet there is talk that JAK did not work? From article. Did they mean AA hair loss and not male pattern hair loss?

    1. Pictures did not look good. The best pictures were from patients with hardly any loss in the first place and the after pic was nothing more than what could have been achieved with different styling.

        1. Agreed JAK pictures were shady literally and figuratively. Dissapointing. Not a cure. Cell-based with new follicles is the only way.

    2. It clearly didn’t work if they are saying the placebo had better results than the actual JAK inhibitors did.

    1. That drop in the value pretty much sums up what it is….. snake oil. Might as well go back to the drawing board because JAK inhibitors are never going to be the answer.

  5. I’ll believe it when I see it. In the mid 90’s they were saying that they were “close” with gene therapy and hair follicle multiplication / cloning etc……Then possible tumors. They might be doing this to keep hope and interest alive on this.

  6. I agree with trevor north. It’s your typical mpb research bs. I know the routine and what to expect from all these companies. If we can land a treatment that can grow 100cm2 like follica claims then that’s the closest we are going to get for a very long time. My derm said that hair cloning will be here in 20 years. I thought that was drastic but I think he is right. Either way this Sanford stuff is pretty cool though!

    Sorry nasa but your jak is jak sh$t. The results were pathetic and the investors see it too. I am pretty sure they are going to scrap this for mpb. Cots even said a few years ago jak won’t work for AGA.

    We still got Follica, sisheido, Samumed, haircell, that Korean medipost, hairstim, follicum, invitrohair, kerastem etc probably others I forgot that should come out in 3 years oh yeah breezula.

    1. File, your derm probably is speculating.
      Next time, just ask him/her (I bet it’s a she) what evidence his/her guess is based on.

  7. Thanks Admin!. Excellent writing with a flair for the dramatic. We’ll let you take a break all the way until July 1st, but then we expect a cure!

    Regarding this news.. Truly awesome that these things are possible. Cell-based brand new follicles are the only real cure, and now we know they can do it. It’s just a matter of time! The hope is enough to keep me optimistic and happy. Have a great weekend

  8. Thanks for all your hard work this month admin, we all appreciate what you do.

    On a side note, i believe earlier this month you said Medipost would be released in Dec and not in July as some were saying. Is this true?

      1. Yessir, my mistake. I was under the impression trials would have to end before releasing the product. Thats were i got the Dec date.

  9. Sorry from what I could see JAK worked and that was at low dose. My guess is they were referring to JAK lotion for AA type hair loss that did not work (just my guess that the press got it wrong).

    All the other companies with press releases that they have a new website is all the same – things that never will work, all of them. The only thing that might work at this point other than a high dose of JAK will be growing hair from cells. That’s the bottom line. And if JAK turns out not to give great hair at high dose then forget ANY drug from ever working it will have to be from growing hair cellsd.

    1. So what would make these hairs DHT resistant if they are just recreating a hair follicle from your stem cells through a draw of blood basically?

  10. Hate da bs- my derm is a man. He is involved with numerous dermatological research groups and studies. He is in the scenes. He does believe better treatments are close like a couple years away. But hair cloning like Christiano, tsuji, Sanford is many years away from daily commercial use. I had a female derm that worked under cots at the University of Pennsylvania. She was part of numerous research including hair loss. I last saw her in 2016. She told me cell based therapy would be out in 3 to 5 years. I asked her if it would be a cure and she literally laughed and said no and for me to stick with min and Propecia. So that’s why I tell all newbies on here to hop on propecia and Rogaine and save what you got. It may be a while for any new real robust regrowth solutions.

    1. This is a precious advice for newbies. 2 years ago I have thought the cure will be available soon, therefore i didn’t use any treatment and my hair is always worse.. now I use minoxidil 2% since May and don’t know if it will help or it’s too late. Fingers crossed!

    2. Okay!

      Next time you meet, please, ask him specifically what he thinks about Tsuji and Fukuda.
      If he is familiar with their research, then, his claim may have some merit.
      Otherwise, he is just another ignorant doc.
      I’m myself a doc and can tell you for sure that many, if not most, docs are just ignorant of current research.

      Don’t get me wrong. I also believe that hair multiplication is not coming anytime soon. The 20-year claim is sheerly speculative, though.

      1. Most of you don’t even stick to using the same name every time you post. Who the hell is going to believe that anyone on here is a doc? A person with actual medical training? This actually made me laugh.

        1. I do, too, laugh everytime you talk about Shiseido and how we should follow the money.
          Scotty, I have a medical degree and have stuck to this name for a long time.
          Totally uncalled for!

  11. Alexey terskikh has already proven “the cure” is real its not a matter of speculation. Its been this way for years. Its all about money ignorant millionaires billionaires etc. There probbaly only 1000 people in the world that know about alexey and half of them are here.

  12. People amaze me. So many negative comments on here, I cannot believe it.

    This is fantastic news, a new big player – and somehow the American equivalent of Tsuji/Tokio University/Riken/Organ/Kyocera in form of Terskikh/Stemson/SanfordBurnham/Allergan/UpNano (from my homecountry Austria!). I think it’s very solid in terms of science and money.

    Somehow it reminds me of the news from July 2016 and I hope it fires the race between USA and Japan.

    To all the critics: yes, this is years away. What do you expect, a cure overnight? And yes, 90 % of the companies fail. Like in every medical field.

    I now count 15 (!) serious endeavors to combat our mutual problem – each with a different approach. I am happy and grateful for that.

  13. What does everyone think about PRP?

    Worth considering for someone with light diffuse thinning on top?

    The possibility of shock loss is putting me off.

    1. I have had it done. For sports injuries it is awesome. You heal like an 18 year old. But for hair, it is useless.

  14. Ben people are giving negative comments. They are just being realistic from years of let down and disappointment from all the companies never bringing a new treatment. You sound very optimistic which is great. I am assuming you are maybe losing your hair for a couple years? Many of us have been hearing false promises and failed companies since 2001. Companies that promised cell cloning like aderans, intercytex also OSH101, christiano research and also cots. The only thing that remains and works is Rogaine and Propecia. No other companies have shown greater results. Once I see a legit before and after picture from these new players that show dramatic regrowth….I mean normal non combover thick density then I’ll get excited. In the meantime it’s all bs and lies. I wouldn’t be surprised if sisheido flopped too. If it was a breakthrough it would have been on the news. Only company to be on the nightly news was follica back in 2009. I’m sure the only reason he hasn’t released it is because of govt bureaucracy and someone losing money from a new treatment that’s actually works better.

  15. It appears there may have been mistakes made in previous statements about the hair loss drug not working when they used Male Pattern Hairloss as it appears that it was the Auto Immune Hairloss (although for a good reason as it appears JAK treated the underlying issue).

    JAK is still in the running, we have more photos due after 1 year of treatment expected late in 2019 AND even more importantly a Higher Dose Trial starts in early 2020.

    I’m still a believer and more than ever since in my opinion I see real hair growth with hopefully much, much more to follow with the new trial starting in 2020.

    Yes ADMIN:)

    “Aclaris Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACRS) is set for a significant down move on the heels of a failed Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating ATI-502 in patients with an autoimmune disorder characterized by hair loss called alopecia areata.

    The study did not meet the primary or secondary endpoints due to high rates of disease resolution in the vehicle (placebo) arm.”

  16. I live in Los Angeles right now every time I’m driving toward irvine I’m like damn terskikh is right down the road killin it.

    I’m just gonna roll up one day like hey I’m your new rat let’s do this

  17. I guess Admin that if Terskikh does grant you another interview, the most obvious q is how long will this take to come to market given that it’s using your own stem cells essentially. Probably safe to assume the usual 5 to 10 but maybe they go the Japan route?

  18. I think this is very encouraging. Even if it isn’t released next year, or the year after, or the year after that, it signifies that there is a concerted effort to combat this problem. Additionally, while Shisedo and Riken are the ones that seem (and indeed appear) to be the best case scenario treatments to be released somewhat soon (knock on wood), the eventual reality of having multiple options for patients will be best. Different treatments will work better for different people, so I am happy that potential salvation will exist for hair loss sufferers of all types. The waiting game is stressful and frustrating and occasionally depressing, however the amount of attention focused on this issue, mixed with advances in biochemistry and cellular genetics, makes the future continuously seem more bright. Speaking as someone in the biological sciences, I do not think that it is foolish to be optimistic about the impending clinical future.

    1. @Acet The waiting game is certainly painful but it might be coming to an end. Yeah, they said that 10 years ago and then intercytex fell through but they just had a funding issue. Now regenerative medicines are backed by multi billion dollar industries (at least the top two players). Shiseido will release their phase II results in a couple weeks and I think Riken will make an announcement in July like they did last year. Those updates will definitely clear up not how far away the cure is but how far away it is for most everyone.

  19. On a brighter note, have you guys seen the phd researcher Antonella Pinto at Stemson Therapeutics? She is hot! I say forget the cure and just give me her haha I’ll forget about my hair loss in two secs. Lol

      1. Of course, you can.
        Just google whom Bar Refaeli is married to.
        Since you are Greek, google Athina Mourkoussi.

  20. Can someone with some business savy answer a question for me. I’m going to use the name of two companies in a strictly hypothetical question.
    Let’s say that Tsuji is progressing his method but is 2 years from launch and while doing so Cassiopiea releases Breezula early and its amazing, give 90% regrowth. It works on everyone and is an affordable DIY at home option.
    Would the success of Cassiopiea cause Tsujis work to get delayed or cancelled?
    Would a simple, affordable noninvasive “cure” cause other companies to quit their work because their methods are invasive and too costly?
    Again totally hypothetical, but I always wondered what would happen to a company that has a highly technical solution for a cure, then somebody released a rather simple one undercutting them somewhat.
    All hypothetical

    1. Good question, but I think that the possibility of what Tsuji offers will always trump approaches that do not allow for the possibility of Norwood 6’s to go to 2’s (for example). While some medications might work well for less advanced stages, Tsuji’s method would theoretically work for all

    2. Chammpy… I sincerely hope we have your hypothetical problem very very soon! Oh what a wonderful problem to have! And if we did have that problem, then would any of us honestly care about it?? haha

  21. AJ why do you always have to hate on me bro? What’s your deal? . I am just trying to put out a funny comment so people can laugh and have a little fun. What have you provided to this forum other than your insults? At least I try to save the new younger forum members from going bald with my experience of using fin and min. I’m always here to help them and not insult anyone. I may make some comments that sound negative but in reality they are realistic comments to help those that are putting off current treatments for future treatments they think are around the corner. So please slow your roll big guy…..

  22. @Admin, how do some companies and surgeons use stem cells from umbilical cords without requiring FDA approval? For an example see LA Dermatology instagram. If using your own cells, or not in the case I mentioned above, how does that affect the regulatory approval timelines?
    This is very exciting, since they already release a pic of growing hair, similar to Tsuji. I know we all care mostly about timeline though.

  23. what the hell is going on … is it really so hard to grow hair? all this story about baldness starts to become surreal, soon we will be able to travel through time … and still no hair ???? is this real ???

    1. Sorry for being offtopic..I am going for a hair transplant. Some People tell me DHI is the best option.Others say its just advanced FUE with higher cost. Is DHI worthy of all the money? Can someone help..I really liked what i saw on their website but want to know whether they are genuine.

  24. My bad, Amdin. That article is LITERALLY this post.

    But all they need is a human trial now, right? So they’re technic on the same page as Tsuji?

  25. Lorence this is the reality of the pharmaceutical and research industry. There isn’t a cure for any medical condition that can make more money with snake oils and repeat treatment. It’s one giant circle of discovery, hype and then disappearance or discovery, hype, clinical trials, weak results then shelved. It’s going to be fin, min, fue and maybe some better maintenance drug with 10 to 20% regrowth. Even I’m starting to lose hope in follica. Afraid it’s going to give 20 cm2 hairs instead of 100cm2 terminal.

  26. @ Mjones
    At this point it doesn’t matter if I have to put an ointment on my head or swallow a pill every single day … but at least they should put on the market something that really works.

    We are still too far from a final cure, at least 10 or 15 years.

  27. lorence says
    ;we are still too far from a final cure, at least 10 or 15 years.> Yeah you are right and in the year 2035 you or another day the same words, the same story backwards!

  28. Look its possible that it is that far but I dont think its fair to write off shiseido before we hear the results same with tsuji over the next year or so. If either are best case scenario or both then that is incredibly substantial at the least.

  29. Andy…forget tsuji bringing out a cure in 2020 or 2021. I think tsuji means cliniCal trials starting in 2020 then wait for two phases to complete for commercial release. So probably 2025 or so. That’s my assumption. Yes I agree we shouldn’t technically write sisheido off until we hear from them. I just don’t like how no media channels ever mentioned them in the news so far. Just some Japanese show.

    1. 5 years for trails? They only need one though. Maybe 2025 for access to a greater population but I think 2020 or 2021 it’ll be out. Going to be pricy and only in Japan but what the hell.

  30. I honestly dont know why some of you are so negative about some of these companies. Follica will be out very soon, then we have breezula and samumed after that. Possibly we have an even better cure with shiseido.

    1. Short answer: it’s the internet, where people are negative about anything.

      Longer answer: lots of people have already chosen their favorite horse to win the race to a cure. It’s a tribal thing, and every other company therefore must be a scam. Also, lots of folks want a perfect, 100 percent, no-effort cure, and anything short of that is snake oil. To be fair, the response rates to many legitimate current treatments are low, so there’s a lot of frustration and suspicion. There’s also a lot of general frustration about the unfairness of hair loss (and it IS unfair to get a bad number in the genetic lottery) coupled with a sense of modern western consumer entitlement. Finally, there is a lot of shit neutraceutical trash on the market based on bogus science and lies, and a lot of us have been burned.

      People have to be smart. They have to research current and coming products. They have to understand how they work, and how they will work with their own physiology, since a lot of these drugs rely on metabolic and enzymatic pathways that exist in various phenotypes (reductases, sulfotransferases, lipases, etc.). A lot of the people who complain don’t want to do work. They want a magic cure. And even if they do the work, the results are usually underwhelming.

      But there is hope, even for those of us who can’t afford a trip to Japan and an expensive treatment. Significant results will likely depend on the combination of multiple treatments, an expense which will also quickly mount. And it will require a certain degree of discipline, effort, and patience. Many people don’t have the dedication (you see it with all disease states, like obesity, diabetes, mental health, etc., where interventions can be quite successful but many folks can’t — sometimes for legitimate reasons — manage to stick to the regime) and that failure comes out as negativity and misplaced blame.

      It’s the era of misinformation and “everybody-has-an-opinion” even when it’s based on feelings rather than direct knowledge or experience.

      We DON’T know what’s going to work. We can make some educated guesses, maybe, but there’s as much reason to be hopeful as to complain. The horse race mentality is laughable. The admin’s highly informed wait-and-see attitude is admirable. That’s why I come here.

  31. To D1
    when could they start doing this stem cell and scaffolding thing in humans?

    As I wrote before … 10/15 years.

    Why am I so negative? … perhaps because Follica has been around for more than 10 years, like so many other companies, and they still haven’t done anything … something stinks big… they just don’t know what their doing, they don’t even know exactly how minoxidil really works … Lol

  32. It s hard to be optimistic when more companies were around for more than a decade and either came with poor results or still nothing new. This is ridiculous. Should I mention for 100th time that is 2019 already? Soon we will have flying cars and portals through time and still can t grow a follicle / find a cure for a bloody follicle??? It s just a follicle they cloned so many organs already and they can t grow a follicle.

    Come on we re not 12 we see where this is going. What can you possibly do in a decade or longer and still have no results. This is like petrol companies. We have technology for electric cars or other alternatives but why don t you see them on the roads already and instead we see only a few electric cars you can count on fingers? They try to milk everything out before it s gone till last drop.

    Since when we have minoxidil??? Since forever. And now Aclaris came with a “cure” which does nothing more than Minoxidil excepting that it might work for a greater number of people unlike Minoxidil which works for some people only but that s all, in 2019. Technology exploded quite a while ago and even before it wasn t that bad but considering the time since then it would be more than enough to have a cure already. How many breakthroughs we had so far how many of them worked in lab then silence. Ofc people are tired of bs. People want something a real result, that works ye. I guess they still have more Minoxidil to sell.

    1. What are these soon to be portals through time you speak of?
      Cause I would go into the future where there is a cure and bring it back.
      Problem solved.

      1. Uhh well it s 2019 and we re still stuck with that bloody Minoxidil we have since forever. Yes Aclaris came with some positive results, depends on how you see it, to me is positive news sorta, but not a progress considering that in 2019 we have another Minoxidil with different name (still not out tho!). Maybe we should wait for time travelling so we can go further in the future and get the cure since growing a damn follicle is impossible.
        Also we keep hearing the same old news kinda a breakthrough here and there then nothing about it ever again or something that is still in trial since forever. Most of other companies are silent, I guess their results are quite bad otherwise we will see on news. So yeah we get the same “progress” since 10 years ago.

  33. The good news about all of this is that we at least have Rogaine and Propecia. Imagine growing up in the early 80s, and before where there was absolutely nothing to hold on to our hair. You had straight up no hope to fighting hair loss. Something new will come out that will just be marginal better than current treatments. Slight more regrowth and hopefully true maintenance. Then 10 to 20 years later a better treatment than that etc. That’s how the medical field works. Baby steps to milk out all our money because they know they’ll get it. Everyone was buying brotzu lotion knowing it was snake oil….yet they still tried it lol

    Admin, I know we had our ups and downs on here throughout the years but I do want to thank you for creating this blog and being 100% ethical and not exploiting us with bs sales pitches.

    Keep up the good work! Hopefully we see a effective hair loss treatment in the next couple years.

  34. We already have the cure and we all need to recognize money is holding it back. It’s not a feasibility issue it’s a go to market issue now.

    I think tsuji will be on time he spoke to Forbes About kobe medical tourism. If shiseido comes out with positive news were going to see a race

    1. @Egghead I think 2020 is a big year on everyone’s calendar, results or not but it’s been the aim for the past decade. So yeah, the race is already on. We’re just not literally in it so we can’t feel the competition. But I bet it’s cutthroat in Japan between tsuji and Shiseido and whoever else may be working on something behind the scenes.

      Also, is the only limitation of a HT the donor zone? Because they can produce some really good looks even with what you have but with unlimited follicles they can give you back your original head of hair, or am I missing something? Like not enough bloood supply or something?

      1. The blood supply limites the density per cm² you can achieve on a single transplant (or “implant” if it’s cloning), but you can get several transplant with months in between to keep increasing the density.

  35. If I was one of these biotech companies I wouldn’t put the price too high so I could sell it to as many men as possible. The microsoft OS didn’t cost a fortune and bill gates sold it to many people.

    1. They were almost giving it away in order to get a high market share. In fact, the Internet Explorer browser was free.

  36. @florence I agree. Companies like follica have been fooling around with the same discovery for many years.this translates to having nothing otherwise they would have shown something by now…and yet we will continue to read about baldness breakthroughs and possible cures and how such and such chemical grew hair in the lab only to never hear about them again. “Stressin B” ring a bell to anyone? Lol. And yet my dumb self still occasionally gets excited when I read about a breakthrough. It’s stupid of me. It’s like, when will I learn?

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