stem-cellRegenerative medicine may hold the key to a hair loss cure, according to Japan’s Meiji Seika Pharma who have joined forces with a government funded research institute, Riken, to determine whether stem cells can be used to regrow hair in humans.

Stem cells

It is already clear that hair and teeth can be regenerated in mice, using stem cells, so the next step is to apply the process to humans. More critical, perhaps, is deciding whether such a process will have commercial value.

While research in the arena of regenerative medicine is the way forward in Japan, where regulations surrounding stem cells and clinical testing are more relaxed, elsewhere in the world, other discoveries are being made.

JAK inhibitors

Researchers led by Dr Angela Christiano at Columbia University Medical Center discovered that drugs that are used to treat blood disease and rheumatoid arthritis will also trigger the growth phase in hair follicles affected by alopecia areata when applied to the skin rather than taken systemically.

The drugs are designed to inhibit the Janus Kinase (JAK) family of enzymes and promote hair regrowth, but so far trials have only been performed on mice.

Further research into this treatment for alopecia areata and its possible impact on androgenic alopecia is being funded by Aclaris Therapeutics who have bought Vixen Pharmaceuticals (an affiliation between Dr Christiano and Columbia University).

For everyone who is experiencing androgenic alopecia (or male pattern baldness) the pressure to come up with a definitive, cost-effective, easy-to-use, and commercially viable cure is huge. Men around the world (and some women, too) are impatient for its arrival on the market.

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By Ian Watson

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