Scientists at UCLA, a leading American university, have accessed a unique funding vehicle to further their research into an exciting possible hair loss cure. We look closer.
One of America’s top twenty universities, the University of California, or UCLA to its friends, is listed in the top ten for its Public Health department. Great news for us since it is a group of scientists from that elevated team who have announced results of some interesting research into hair loss.
Leads on this research were three faculty members; Heather Christofk (Ass Professor of biological chemistry; William Lowry (professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology; and Michael Jung (distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry). The three have set up a company with the aim of focussing on hair loss.
The team was looking at processes involved in the growth of the hair follicle, particularly at the stage where it enters the actual growth phase to produce new hair.
They first noticed that the metabolism of the hair follicle was completely different from that of other skin cells. Cellular metabolism breaks down the nutrients needed for cells to divide, for energy, and to allow them to respond to their environment. Hair follicles take glucose directly from the bloodstream which they process to produce a metabolite called pyruvate which it sends to the mitochondria where it can be used to create energy. But it also converts some of that pyruvate into another metabolite called lactate. The team developed a theory that if they could reduce the entry of the pyruvate into the mitochondria they could force the follicle into producing more lactate… which might activate the cells and see hair grow more quickly.
To test their theory they first genetically modified mice to block lactate production and showed that this stopped hair follicle stem cell activation. Then, working in collaboration with a team from the Rutter lab at the University of Iowa, they showed that by increasing the supply of lactate they accelerated that activation.
They went on to identify two drugs that, when applied to the skin, were capable of affecting the rate of lactate production.
So far so good. But the costs associated with taking an interesting drug through to trial is prohibitive and many interesting research projects disappear at this stage for that reason.
Fortunately for the team at UCLA, the university has an Innovation Fund. Seeded with cash from the California State it exists to help research teams develop ideas into products, to turn ideas from the biomedical teams into treatments that can benefit the public, and do it quickly.
HIS Hair Clinic
We are always delighted to read about interesting new avenues of inquiry into hair loss cures. The fact that this one comes from UCLA adds gravity, and their funding facility should be applauded… something we might all be grateful for down the line if their treatment comes to market. We will, of course, watch their progress with keen interest and report back.
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