This follicle hacking drug could someday treat hair loss

“I think that’s a realistic vision,” says Maria Kasper, associate professor of cell and molecular biology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. However, she emphasizes that it is still too early to say whether Plikus results will lead to a new treatment for hair loss, noting that alternative therapies are also being developed.

Turn Biotechnologies, for example, is developing a treatment that uses messenger RNA (mRNA), which follows the same basic principles as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid vaccines, delivering genetic instructions to our cells to make useful substances. According to co-founder Vittorio Sebastiano, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University in the US, Turn’s goal is to deliver mRNA that encodes a protein cocktail that can turn back the clock for hair follicles. Their treatment, TRN-001, would be delivered to follicles in liquid nanoparticles and help reset stem cells there, making the follicles functionally younger. “I’d be happy to get my hair back to 30,” jokes Sebastiano, “so that would be 15 years of rejuvenation.”

Sebastiano hopes to begin human clinical trials by late next year or early 2024, and envisions a future where TRN-001 will be applied topically with microinjections, similar to what Plikus envisions for SCUBE3. But while an mRNA-based approach might be more effective, since it forces cells to make relevant proteins themselves, Sebastiano acknowledges that the novelty of this technology makes the cost and periodicity of treatment difficult to predict and the regulatory landscape more difficult.

In fact, Kevin McElwee, associate professor of dermatology at the University of British Columbia in Canada and scientific director of hair biotech company RepliCel, says that’s why his team isn’t going down the mRNA route: “The regulatory issues with the FDA are huge.” Instead For example, RepliCel – and a competitor, HairClone – are working on a cell-based approach to hair loss by moving hair cells from one part of the scalp to another to stimulate growth.First, hair follicles are harvested from the back of a person’s scalp, then the relevant cells (dermal papilla cells for HairClone, dermal enveloping goblet cells for RepliCel) are dissected out and cultured, and finally these multiplied cells are microinjected into a person’s balding head.Some of these cells are also cryopreserved for future injections.

“The problem with hair transplantation is that it is one to one; You still have the same number of hairs, just spread them out,” says HairClone CEO Paul Kemp. You can use these multiplying techniques to increase hair volume instead. However, Kemp and McElwee both estimate that the process could take a month or two from start to finish for the patient and, given the manual work involved, could cost more than hair transplants, at least initially. But this treatment could also be more successful, says Kemp, because “it’s a personalized cell therapy, as opposed to Plikus’ one-size-fits-all approach.” RepliCel’s therapy has started being tested on patients in Japan, while HairClone hopes to be able to start human trials in the UK by early 2023; Both countries have more flexible clinical trial requirements than the US.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.