CRISPR (Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) may well be the breakthrough of the year, as proclaimed by Science magazine at the end of 2015, for its ability to permanently turn off unwanted genes at the DNA level in embryos, babies, and even in later stages of life.
CRISPR – what is it?
Developed with the potential to treat, manage, and even prevent genetic conditions such as muscular dystrophy, Huntingdon’s disease, and cystic fibrosis, trials have been proposed to determine CRISPR’s effectiveness on hereditary blindness.
How it works
CRISPR technology works by turning off genes at the DNA level, and when the body tries to repair the fault at a cellular level, a part of the DNA is permanently removed. In the blindness study it is proposed that the retina will be exposed to various viruses containing the requisite DNA instructions to make CRISPR components. A similar ‘cut-and-paste’ process in principal is all that is required to apply the technology to any other hereditary condition – including male and female pattern baldness. Simply by identifying the gene that is involved in causing the hereditary sensitivity to the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – which attacks hair follicles and weakens them over time until they no longer produce healthy hair – the possibility that hair loss can be halted in its tracks becomes very real.
Hair loss solution?
Given the popularity of current hair loss treatments around the world, a technological advance in hair loss science such as this is likely to attract the interest of millions of people. However, the technology is still in its infancy and while the genes involved in hereditary hair loss remain unknown, clinical trials for the effects of CRISPR on baldness cannot be conducted.