This years winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine has been announced. While there is no Nobel Prize for hair loss, the winning work might have implications for sufferers everywhere. We take a closer look.
Serial inventor Alfred Nobel, passed away aged 63 in 1896. By then he held 355 separate patents. Including his most famous one, for dynamite. He also owned a large iron and steel producer, which he transformed into an arms manufacturer. Not someone who might spring to mind as one who would be responsible, in the future, for a Nobel Prize for hair loss.
The story goes that Nobel was stung into action when he read a premature obituary. In that obituary, he was criticised for being an arms dealer. His reaction was to bequeath a substantial fund for peace. Although he was sceptical at how successful it might prove, what he set up was the Nobel Prize.
Over a century on and the Prize is still going strong. It offers annual recognition to the most important, in the view of the various committees, contributions in a range of fields from the previous year. The fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economic science are all represented. But the first to be announced this year was medicine, it wasn’t quite a Nobel Prize for hair loss but it wasn’t too far off.
Oxygen-Sensing and Hair Loss
The medicine prize for 2019 has been given to 3 men working on separate continents. Sir Peter Ratcliffe at the Francis Crick Institute at Oxford University; William G. Kaelin Jnr. at Harvard Medical School; and Gregg L. Semenza all shared the prize.
Their work involved understanding, for the first time, how cells adapt to different oxygen levels. With this new basis for understanding cell metabolism and function doctors have high hopes. It promises new treatments for anaemia, where cells can struggle to uptake oxygen, and cancer, where tumour cells hijack oxygen.
There are plenty of products already on the hair loss market which claim to do no more than improve blood supply to the region. Caffeine shampoo would be an example. They are working on the principle that increased blood supply means more oxygen.
But nobody is going to give a Nobel Prize to caffeine shampoo. Our immune system is highly sensitive to that oxygen-sensing machinery. As are many of our other physiological functions, not least during pregnancy.
It is the potential to moderate the effects of our own immune systems that teases a hair loss solution. Many forms of hair loss are essentially immune disorders. The symptoms of which see the immune system attack hair follicles. So the prospect of having complete control over that system might well mean a cure for hair loss.
HIS Hair Clinic
We report regularly on the results of amazing science. Often, its small teams beavering away in University labs. Typically, they contribute another brick in the wall.
This is different. A Nobel Prize is the pinnacle of research achievement, recognised by peers. The benefits of the work delivered by these three brilliant men will felt for decades to come. It has already found a place in the labs of some of the companies looking into the diseases already mentioned here. We sincerely hope that hair loss sufferers will not have to wait long for it to deliver for them. We will be watching closely. You can see the official announcement on the organization’s page here.
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