Inspired by the balding father of one of its members, a team from Israel's oldest university, the Technion, has developed a new hair loss product that could prevent testosterone from converting to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), without any of the worrying side effects associated with oral medications.
What's wrong with DHT?
Studies have shown that it is when testosterone converts to DHT that hair follicles are weakened and eventually deteriorate in cases of androgenetic alopecia
, or male-pattern baldness. So if we can prevent testosterone from converting to DHT, then we can potentially cure male-pattern baldness.
What's wrong with the oral medications?
Oral treatments do exist that can stop DHT from forming, but unfortunately they can have some alarming side effects, from erectile dysfunction to an increased risk of both prostate and male breast cancer.
The Technion team wanted to create a product that could break down DHT on the scalp
, treating the problem topically without affecting other areas of the body. The project was inspired by the father of one team member, Alexey Tomsov, who was developing a bald spot on his scalp. Alexey wanted to help his father solve the problem, without risking any adverse effects from oral treatment.
How does the new product work?
The team developed a comb-like device, which the user injects with an enzyme which can then trigger bacteria on the scalp to break down DHT before it forms. Both the comb and the syringe are designed to be reusable, so the user just combs their hair with the product on a daily basis to prevent hair loss.
The team entered their project in an international genetic engineering competition in Boston and won first prize, against 259 teams from across the world.
The students are now working with the university and their mentor, Professor Roee Amit to develop the project further, with the aim of starting clinical trials and applying for regulatory approval in order to eventually take the product to market.
How soon can that happen?
The process will take a long time, and rightly so – the product was designed to avoid nasty side effects, so it is important that its risks and benefits are duly assessed before millions of men the world over start using it. In fact, many products like this never hit the market, as clinical trials can be a long and grueling process, with no guarantee of success.
However, the competition win is a good start and if all goes well for the Technion team, this could revolutionise the hair loss market across the world.