The University of Calgary and Jeff Biernaskie

Update: April 2020 — Dr. Jeff Biernaskie and his team (led by graduate student Wisoo Shin) just made an important new discovery. They found that hair loss is caused by progressive dysfunction of message-sending fibroblasts due to aging dermal stem cells. Fully functioning dermal stem cells are required to maintain fibroblast populations. Actual paper is published in Developmental Cell.

Apparently, hair loss research to date has mostly focused on keratinocytes, the cells that make up the bulk of the hair follicle. However, a loss of dermal stem cells prevents production of new fibroblasts. Fibroblasts in the hair follicle are crucial, since they send messages to the keratinocytes. These messages tell the keratinocytes when to divide, which in turn orchestrates the repeating cycles of hair follicle growth and shedding.

These latest findings will also impact research into skin regeneration and wound healing.

Jeff Biernaskie, Fibroblasts and Dermal Hair Stem Cells
Dr. Biernaskie and his team. New findings that aging dermal stem cells and fibroblasts lead to hair loss.

Update: February 2015 — An interesting and fairly technical article on dermal cups and dermal stem cells. Includes a great summary of the recent work by Dr. Jeff Biernaskie as well as a brief mention on Replicel’s approach.

December 2014

Jeff Biernaskie and Dermal Stem Cells

Earlier this month, a team led by Dr. Jeff Biernaskie (from the University of Calgary in Canada) got their hair related research findings published in the journal Developmental Cell.  This research identifies the existence of hair follicle dermal (in the skin) stem cells in adults. These can potentially be targeted to stimulate new hair growth in areas where there has been hair loss.

More detailed information can be read via the Calgary Herald.

Although this was interesting research that was widely covered in the media, I was not too impressed. Besides the fact that this was yet again research only done in mice, it seems like Dr. Biernaskie himself is a professor in the veterinary department! Moreover, most of the articles that I read on this development suggested that these findings could only lead to a potential cure in 10 years at best.

With the seemingly exponential growth in science and technology in recent years, 10-year time frames are usually a bit underwhelming. Nevertheless, after writing my prior post on hair loss research at the University of Bradford, now seemed like a good time to praise a Canadian university. It should be noted that other researchers from Kyoto University in Japan; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US; and Université de Strasbourg in France; were also involved in this research.

More interesting, two days ago Replicel published an article covering this study. They think that these findings validate Replicel’s RHC-01 product, which utilizes dermal sheath cup cells.

80 thoughts on “The University of Calgary and Jeff Biernaskie”

    1. Hi buddy, I’m writing to you from the future, April 2020. Replicel did never happen until now, and probably will never happen. But new companies are trying hard, and your „10 years“ seems plausible judging from today.

      Sorry for causing disappointment. Oh by the way, we are in the middle of a global pandemic and Donald Trump (yes, really) will be elected president in 2016.

    1. Although my medical knowledge is zero.
      If fasting for 5 days with a proper refeeding cause stemcell activation(and autophagy, aka clearing away of damaged cells)
      Would that be proven beneficial according to this new data?

  1. Replicel is starting phase II early next year. After that is finished, then phase III will be conducted. Then, this will finally be on the market for the public. But it appears for starters only in Japan. That means that my a** will be flying to Japan in the next 5 yrs or so!!!

  2. Hola lex la fase 2 no empezó y va a demorar 39 meses. A eso sumale la fase 3, otros 3 o 4 años mas. No creo que salga antes. En japón puede ser, esperemos que Asia nos de una buena sorpresa. No me canso de decirlo, es patetico todo el tema de los tratamientos de la alopecia. 2015 y ni un fármaco nuevo tenemos. Sin palabras.

  3. That’s true, we need something new, even slightly more effective than propecia and minoxidil. Bimatoprost has been tested and FDA approved for eye treatment. Is likely to conduct a phase 3 of short duration.

  4. Es agotador todo esto! hace desde el 2000 que vengo escuchando que en 5 años sale algo nuevo. Y el pelo se sigue cayendo. Por dios, que alguien diga cuando histogen y replicel inician fase 2 en japón!!!!! dijeron 2015 pero no aclararon el mes!!!!! es desesperante pensar que uno va a esperar hasta el 2018 y a lo mejor no pasa nada de nada, como siempre.

  5. Yo por mi parte el 2015 lo empecé super desanimado. Mi alopecia avanza y no hay una sola noticia alentadora respecto a este tema. Da ganas de no visitar más el blog. Raparse y listo. El 2020 Está lejos muchachos y sin certezas de nada. Triste me siento.

  6. Totalmente de acuerdo. No hay excusas. No puede ser que tengamos que pasar otro año entero sin tener otras alternativa a las cirugía. Lo único que me queda por probar es la mesoterapia. Impotencia siento.

  7. Que no se malentienda mi opinión. Estoy contento por este blog que nos permite opinar. Pero llega un punto que uno se cansa de escuchar ensayo de aquí y ensayo de allá. Y nunca sale nada nuevo. Mi papa hace de los 90 que escucha que va a salir una solución y ya tiene 63 años. Seguramente no va a tener la posibilidad de vivir tanto para ver una cura y tener otra vez pelo y disfrutarlo. Eso es lo que me agota. Te dicen 5 años para una cura y uno cuenta los días para que lleguen esos 5 años y cuando llegan no sale nada. Así pasaron décadas.

  8. Lo de la Clinica de españa posiblemente ya esté este año. Yo no tengo problema de esperar hasta el 2019/2020 para lo de Replicel, siempre y cuando por lo menos se mejore la medicación. Pero no sale nada! esa es la impotencia que siento.

  9. Didn’t they know this 5 years ago and they haven’t moved? Everyone is in the same position as when they first announced their discoveries. Restrictions need to be relaxed. We don’t need so many trials that lasts lifetimes. Seriously. Get on with it already.

  10. In the U of C article it says “There is good evidence that similar fibroblasts, or progenitor cells, reside in most organs in the body and so they may undergo similar age-related degeneration……..” Admin will laugh but one company that has been actively pursuing treatments involving turning on progenitor cells and can culture them in limitless quantities is Frequency Therapeutics. Admin knows I am high on their tech strategy as this is the company that has turned on ear hair progenitor cells and regrown ear hair doubling hearing in Phase 1. Now in Phase 2 and fast tracked by the FDA. Unfortunately, androgenic alopecia, which was apparently a close second in their focus on regenerative treatments is now at best 3rd, behind a treatment for MS. Probably 5 to 10 years out should they decide to pursue. Also, the research on culturing dermal cup cells may have come a long way, but I remember a knowledgeable researcher involved in culturing 5 or so years ago and, at the time, he said that while they could multiply dermal papilla cells with something like 70% inductivity, they got zero inductivity with dermal cup cells.

      1. ☺From the Wayback machine in June of 2019 talking about their PCA approach (progenitor cell activation) as this sentence is no longer on their website: “One of those opportunities is in alopecia, a common condition that causes hair loss. Androgenic alopecia affects as much as 50% of men and 25% of women over 50 years of age. We are studying the application of a PCA regenerative approach to address this condition” Note that one of the compounds used in their “cocktail” to turn on ear hair progenitor cells is valproic acid. I believe their strategy involves using not 1 compound, but a “cocktail” of compounds, the progenitor for each tissue getting turned on by a different cocktail.


    Hello everyone—-I am thinking of trying this combination of ingredients sold on the link listed. Price is reasonable if it helps. I was wondering if anyone has tried this and is this Dr. legit. I have been using 5% minoxidil for years with modest results. I do think it has helps maintain some hair in crown area. Was hoping to find a way to add a little better coverage.

    1. For a drug that only promises a slow-down, not guaranteed maintenance or re-growth, it’s not worth going to an online version of a street dealer. Go to your pharmacist, buy hair fibres or get a cap. Don’t play Russian roulette with your health.

  12. @Woofy97 New CRISPR techniques can modify up yo 25 genes at once and I’m sure within the next 2-4 years it will get significantly better than that.

  13. What often worries me is the disinterest of big investors … as if they knew that investing in a cure for baldness is just wasted money … The richest man in the world is bald and I am sure that he too would like to have a head full of hair but …
    I believe that one day a cure will be found but I also believe that this is not around the corner :(

    1. Most investors are looking for a return on their money within 5 years. But there are plenty that would finance this. After all, Replicel are not operating on revenue but on investor’s money, as are some of the other players. When you are as rich as the Amazon guy, you don’t need hair.

      In fact, what does hair actually do? Why do you want it back so badly? Were our lives so perfect when we had it, when we were 16, 18, 21? I for one accept that my shortcomings in life were not due to receding early, but making bad decisions about money and people.

      1. Well the Amazon guy can also live without it, more power to him …
        As far as I’m concerned, my life was much better when my forehead was 3 fingers lower …
        And as far as your messes are concerned, perhaps your bad decisions were partly guided by your insecurities … as someone has already said … every baldness has its own story.

  14. I like how you reuse old blogs and update them admin. We can all see posts from 2014 of people saying “5 years! Cmon!” and “Well I guess I can wait 5 years…” and “fine in 5 years I’ll fly to Japan and this nightmare will be over”. All of that only to be here 5 years later and the needle hasn’t moved.

    See you all back here in 2025!! With totally for sure guaranteed results!! Don’t worry guys, just 5 more years!!

  15. Well I guess things are moving forward, progress is unstoppable, even the slighest new discovery could bring a giant leap in the direction of a cure. Sadly this is not happening as fast as we’d like / need it to. Just try to be positive, accept that follicles regeneration is much more complex than what you might expect. We are closer to a cure than we were 5 years ago, and that’s enough for me on good days
    Stay safe everyone

    1. Good comment. I will be disappointed if Tsuji says he is still a few years away. Till then, no need to get overly pessimistic.

      1. Hey Admin. Thanks as ever for all your work and always being the voice of cautious positivity. Hey you might well roll your eyes at this and I’m probably the thousandth person to suggest this – so forgive me – but I would think a man of your tact and resourcefulness, as well as being captain of an influential blog that no doubt boasts solid stats … I wonder if it’d be out of the realms of possibility that you might be able to penetrate the polite outer layer of Riken / Organ Technologies somehow and see if some kind of simple Q and A interview could be arranged, (with the help of an able Japanese ally.) Perhaps five simple questions could be put forward, written in a way that discourages ambiguity in the answers. I know it is a daunting prospect but I can’t help but wonder… You are every part as much a legitimate investigative journalist as anyone else – even moreso given the depth and scope of your blog, and I think – as long as it reaches the right, receptive gatekeeper at Riken / OT – they might well respect that and accommodate your request. Anyway, just a thought, apologies for presumption… I’m sure you have a very full dance card regardless! Thanks.

        1. Thanks. I have tried to contact at least one of them 3 times during the past year. But no response other than a generic update some time ago. Last week I emailed Tsuji. Not expecting to hear back :-(

  16. Even if it is a few years off, we just need to see the method work; like, actually fully cure a Norwood 7 patient! The idea of injections growing permanent hair—especially the idea that injections could creatively shape an entirely new hairline any way you wish—is far and away the best method conceivable. And the fact so many men suffer from male pattern baldness means the price will decrease dramatically once it spreads across all the markets.

    Just make it work Sensei Tsuji …2020!

    1. Toccata, when you type “injectables” Do you mean transplanting the actual cloned follicle into a bald area? Or are you meaning injectables like replicel? Because we know how that turned….

      1. “Injectables” is easier to visualize than “intracutaneous transplantation”. The word “transplant” just sounds like you’re relocating the follicle, whereas this inserts stem cells or follicle “primordium” into the area.

        Tsuji could fail like Replicel—that would definitely be an enormous let down for a lot of people—but the confidence these guys have—like cultivating epithelial stem cells was something other researchers were stuck on; when Tsuji was asked, he plainly said they had developed an expansion method. Well okay then. What’s next? And last year he was talking about releasing it in either 2020 or 2021, no dancing about with the whole ‘initiating another study to blah, blah, blah, five years we *hope* to blah, blah, blah. Just… ‘either 20 or 21. Huge cash’.

        Kyocera said their plan included a research period set for 2 years followed by “the materialization of the business model of commissioned manufacturing” —As Ben noted previously, if Tsuji is stepping aside and business guys are stepping up, it could very well be they’ve moved to prepping it for release.

  17. Hi Admin, thanks for your new article. I personally think this is an underrated discovery. I mean, wouldn’t that be exactly what Exicure should be pursuing? Just edit the genes who are responsible for hair loss…I think this could lead to something great, in a couple of years.

    Admin you know everybody appreciates your work, but I have a wish: Please try to get an interview from every company currently searching for a cure. There’s how many – 12? – on the list. If every company gives you an comprehensive update once a year, you could publish an interview every month or so. Would be great for our morale. And I read more and more in your forum something like „why is there no update“, „haven’t heard of them for a long time“, „are they still active“…

    Interviews with Terskikh, Naughton, Kemp, Knight; Exicure, Organ…

    Would be highly appreciated, although I know it would be a lot of work. I mean you have the reputation, why would one of these companies not give an interview to you, once a year? It’s also important for them to have media coverage.

    1. Unfortunately, at least half of such companies never respond to emails. And the majority of the rest (e.g., Samumed, Organ/Tsuji) will not give away any information beyond basic responses to emails once a year or so :-( Can’t always blame them, since they do not want to create hysteria, nor influence stock prices if publicly traded.

      Dr. Terskikh (Stemson) and Dr. Bhanusali (Follica) have granted interviews to this blog in the past. But neither has responded to my last outreach attempts. HairClone’s Paul Kemp has also been interviewed on this blog in the past. Will try to get him on again towards the end of the year if he is willing.

      Follicum regularly updates us with informative press releases. And they are good at replying to basic concerns via email.

      Shiseido never replies.

      I could try getting an Italian speaker to contact Cassiopea, but they will not give any new information about the release of Breezula beyond what is publicly divulged. So would largely be a pointless interview, even if successful.

        1. True, though I was thinking more along the lines of hiring an Italian to call the company and speak to them on the phone. Not likely to do it, but have thought about it in the past.

  18. Hey admin, i wonder if this fibroblast thing is linked to the calcification/ fibrosis theory ? What’s your thoughts on that ?

    Thank you,



    1. Not sure Kevin! There are so many ways in which to target hair growth (DHT, Wnt Signaling, PGD2, PGE2, Hedgehog Pathway, Fibroblasts, Exosomes, Growth Factors…) that it is way too confusing for me at this point. I am also a bit lazy at reading up on technical details these days :-(

  19. Question:
    I have been using minoxidil and finasteride for years, what if I stop using minoxidil? has any of you already tried? I ask you this because due to the covid-19 I still haven’t received the order I’ve made online. More than a month has passed since the last use of minoxidil and so far I haven’t noticed any worsening , in fact I notice less hair than usual in the sink.
    Please let me know and thanks in advance for the answers.

      1. You’re thinking Follicum, the swedish biotech. Follica is from the US. But both companies had their last trials in Germany.

  20. Follica will have their last trial in the US i guess, not in germany. They wanted to start in the first half of 2020. I am worried it will not happen.

  21. If it’s mostly cells senescence that doesn’t explain why hair in other parts in the body grows stronger than ever… I feel it isn’t such big news.

  22. look honestly I dont think Tsuji will fail. I’ve studied medicine the past couple years. And he’s basically recreating an infant hair follicle. Now I have two concerns. First off all hair follicles are destined to thin. Whether you like it or not. But its a matter of time. Hair follicles on the back of head will thin to about 50% when you turn 90. So my concerting would be picking a bad hair follicle to clone. I think they’ll need some sort of analyzer to determine the good from the bad. Because you’ll just have a thinning pile of hair 2 years down the line

    2.) Density. Most people dont know this, but when your born you have millions of hair cells. Most of them die because of packing. Hair follicles are so tightly packed creating density that most cells never mature. It’s nearly impossible to create 200 hairs per cm in a hair transplant because follicles need space to breath and receive blood. Tightly packing follicles is terrible. I’m more concerned about density than anything. Can they create a reasonable density. Answers yes, 120 hairs per square cm.

    Lastly I’m balding. Finasteride and minoxidil are ass, cant wait for Tsuji to come out so I can get the hell off of it. Yes libido issues are a real thing. Every time a skip a day of finasteride, libido sky rockets. Crazy tbh. But organ technologies accepted 5 million in investment in 2018. A month before they started “pre-clinical trials”. 5 people on the board are business people. A billion dollar pharmaceutical company invested in 2011.

    Most people are wrong about release. What they’ll do is have hair transplant surgeons transplant hair grafts, send them to a local processor. Have that local processor clone the cells, send the cells back and have surgeons inject those cells back into the head. Think of it like prp.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. But besides all the scientific issues that come up linked to their progress is to development of Covid-19 Restrictions and impacts. Last week I read that Japan now is also set up for state of emergency. I’m really worried this will affect their trials and timeline significantly. Mai soon and no update at all on their homepage, except this weird role change of tsuji’s position within the firm.

      1. Corona will affect OrganTech for sure, probably a postponement of a couple of months (clinical trials for instance).

        But it won’t threaten the mission, they are too far developed and too good financed. Easy.

    2. I get that you are trying to come across as an authority on this subject by saying you studied medicine, but this whole post just makes no sense lol.

    3. Jake+Palmer I’m replying to your first concern age and thinning hair. usually when a male gets older when he reaches 65 years old or higher the donor hair becomes to look see through because the diameter is thin but the hair follicle still functioning normal that usually happens in a old man with severe baldness it’s called senescent alopecia. So if you inject exosome into those hair the hairs will most like go back the way they were years ago the diameter gets thick and the doesn’t look see through any more. And then the patient gets hair cloning when they know the diameter of the donor hair is thick.

  23. The ‘news’ section was updated on the Organ Technologies website. It was regarding their skin rejuvenation –
    Nikkei BP’s “etRouge” No.24 introduces our next-generation artificial skin model (was featured in a Japanese mag). When you click on ‘english’ button to translate the website this update of news does not come up. I was hoping when I did the translation that the piece of news was regarding their hair regeneration. Hopefully the next set of news/PR is about hair :)

    1. Look I think you guys are thinking of this all wrong. you should be thanking god the rich people are doing it first. Their the test rabbits for all of us to see the efficacy. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be the first person to get hair plugs in the 60’s. I think in year 3 everything will be tuned in so give or take 2024. You also have to realize that the reason a lot of US pharmaceutical companies haven’t done this procedure is because we haven’t cloned cells before and injected them in HUMANS. If it works in Japan, U.S research companies will just replicate it and get fda approval. All of us should be more concerned about getting it released in 2021 than the price. honestly in my opinion, there is too much money invested in it for it to NOT fail. Though I will say this, they did say they’re going to limit it to 10,000 people In the first year so I think this procedure is going to be super limited when it comes out and in year 2-3 it will expand globally.

  24. By the way, I think tsuji will succeed, I read the research papers it all links together. And I will say this. I remember reading about replicel in 2016 and thought it was bullshit. Utter trash. It literally sounded like prp. You cant take hair cells and inject them expecting a miracle. There’s no reaction taking place. The cells replicel were cloning were the tissue of hair follicles. Not the brain itself. Don’t fall for these scams next time.

  25. I did PRP once. Think it cost AUD $900?! Guess what? It didn’t work. Surprise, surprise. What a waste of $. That’s a rtn airfare to surf in the tropics for me. Stupid. As my Gramps used to say, ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’. Ha. I personally don’t know another soul it worked for either. Maybe it worked for someone…somewhere? As for Repicel? I don’t know if it’s crap or not? However, from what I’ve read so far, I can’t see myself flying over there anytime soon.

    1. I am still 50/50 about PRP. By now, at least 30 studies show that it has some benefit to hair growth. And lots of doctors and people on sites such as Realself and Yelp have given it positive reviews.

      But it does seem that there are mostly negative reports on the forums.

      Most of the concentrated growth factors in PRP have positive impact on hair growth per a large number of studies.

      1. Im more positive on that regenera active treatment, although apart from initial positive media hype I can’t seem to find any user reviews.

        Initial pics were very good

    2. I also did 3 PRP session and it didn’t do anything positive. It was 4 years ago though so maybe protocols have become better since then. The doctor also injected it too far into the scalp that he probably traumatized the area too much since after the last session I had swelling in one area of the scalp which after a few weeks resulted in some bone growth there due to the trauma.

    1. He is still director at Riken. Perhaps being the big guy in two places is not necessary or desired in Japanese culture. Elon Musk would fail badly in Japan lol

  26. Well, I decided to shave my head.

    I had a short buzz cut throughout high school and it looked cool at the time – I had a complete hair line. Now I want grow my hair but can’t lol. My shaved head doesn’t look awful, but I’m no Bruce Willis or Dwayne Johnson. I also have a strong German nose which is accentuated without hair on my scalp.

    I’ve noticed my scalp is tender at the crown area which is mostly vellus hairs and smooth skin – mainly hairs that are wiry/wispy hairs. I’m going to keep microneedling and applying topicals. Also use 2% ketoconazole shampoo and take fin 1 mg.

    1. Congratulations Phil!! Always the best solution if you can handle it and are willing to shave every week or two, depending on your remaining hair growth’s speed.

      1. More or less, I shaved it because now seemed like a good opportunity to see how it would look. Considering I’m socially isolated and the barber is closed.

        Maybe the government will send out a bigger stimulus check so I can get a FUE. lol

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