As we near the end of our tour around the smart biotech companies working on a hair loss cure, we take a look at Kyocera’s impressive work on stem cells.
Kyocera might, at first glance, seem an unlikely candidate to deliver a hair loss cure. The company was founded in Japan in 1959 as a specialist in fine ceramics and steadily built the business, expanding to become an international player with offices in the USA and Germany. By 1972 they were using their skills around ceramics to enter the brave new world of information technology, delivering multi-layered ceramic packages for large-scale integrated circuits. The early eighties saw a series of mergers with electronics companies, it would set the tone for the next decade or more as the business used acquisitions to enter many new markets where they saw an opportunity to use their R&D abilities to carve out market share.
The 3M Yen that it required to set the company up, back in 1959, is now dwarfed by annual revenues today in excess of 1.5 trillion Yen. They are a major player in more industries and market sectors than you could shake a stick at. Fortunately, for hair loss sufferers the world over, on Kyocera’s to-do list is to produce a hair loss treatment based on some breathtakingly twenty-first-century science.
Kyocera has teamed up with two very young, very smart Japanese biotechs. One is Organ Technologies, a small research company that has its focus on regenerative medicine… they have taken out patents on reproduced teeth… which you would think might make sprouting some new hair a relatively simple task. The second is an outfit called Riken Center for Developmental Biology, like Organ Technologies they are focussed on regenerative medicine and have a phenomenal catalog of innovation behind them.
The three, Kyocera, Riken and Organ Technologies, have been collaborating on some stem cell research aimed at a hair loss cure… or at the very least to make hair transplants a thing of the past. The limitations of transplants are well-known, harvest scars chief among them. But even if you find your way, with deep enough pockets, to a good surgeon, they are only able to relocate a limited number of follicles… and they will take 6 months to “settle” before you can judge the success of the treatment. Even then there are issues with size and orientation, where the relocated hairs are mature and taken from the back of the head they look substantially different from the fine hairs normally seen at the hairline. In addition, the original orientation of the follicle may be lost in relocation so that they grow out in odd directions, further adding to the slightly wrong finish.
Hair Follicle Primordiums
We know, it was a new word on us when we first saw it in one of their press releases, but that is the nature of groundbreaking medicine… the need to create new words for never seen before products. In this case the product is arrived at by taking follicles from the patients own head. Just a few though. These follicles have their stem cells isolated which are then multiplied in the lab. These cells are combined in what they describe as a 3D environment before being “packaged” ready for delivery back into the same patient’s scalp… via a series of injections.
HIS Hair Clinic
This work is at the very early, pre-clinical, stage. But the quality of the achievements already made by both Riken and Organ, combined with the smarts and financial muscle of Kyocera should give everyone cause for hope that something meaningful will come out of it. Their prognosis is that the treatment will be able to deliver impressive density over a similar timescale to a modern FUT transplant, though it is likely to be the job of a surgeon to administer the injections suggesting cost will be a barrier for many. At least in its early years. We will continue to watch their progress and report back on any momentum.
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