Hair loss caused by the genetic conditions Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss happens because of an hereditary anomaly that makes hair follicles sensitive to an enzyme in the body which can prevent them from functioning properly. Given that a propensity towards it is pre-programmed through certain individuals’ DNA, the question “can we turn it off at a genetic level?” is one that has captivated the medical community.
Hot on the heels of a headline-grabbing genetic editing technique named CRISPR that has rocked the medical world, a Chinese professor and his team may have gone one better, with a variant gene-editing technique that some say is superior. Experts now think it will soon be possible to edit the genome so that androgenetic alopecia (hereditary hair loss) could be eliminated.
Regain hair through genetic repair
The scientist, Han Chunyu (pictured), an associate professor at the Hebei University of Science and Technology in northern China, told reporters: “With this technique, middle-aged men with bald heads can probably regain their hair through genetic repair.”
The website of the country’s China Radio International (CRI) station, states that the new technique has been named NgAgo, and that “experts said the finding’s potential is expected to surpass the CRISPR technology, which is recognised as a favourite for the upcoming Nobel Prize.”
CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and is a much-celebrated new genome-editing tool that is steadily revolutionising biology. Its public awareness received a huge boost after media reports on how this technique was named 2015’s ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ by the prestigious Science journal.
The Gizmodo website reported last summer that, “The past few years have seen a flurry of ‘firsts’ with CRISPR, from creating monkeys with targeted mutations to preventing HIV infection in human cells.” It went on to explain that CRISPR is actually a “naturally-occurring, ancient defense mechanism found in a wide range of bacteria.”
The Nature Journal added: “What CRISPR offers, and biologists desire, is specificity: the ability to target and study particular DNA sequences in the vast expanse of a genome.”
If Mr Chunyu’s gene-editing technique is indeed superior to CRISPR, the possibilities seem endless – and not just for treating genetic hair loss conditions. China Radio International states that “one of the advantages is that it does not cause cancer unlike CRISPR technology that could cause the disease.” However, it is unclear where they got this information regarding CRISPR being a potential cause of cancer from, as no source was quoted and we are unaware of this detail having been previously reported.
Writing on his blog ipsell.com, biomedical scientist Dr Paul Knoepfler says: “While NgAgo is indeed a nifty new genome editing technology , it’s not going to immediately race ahead of CRISPR… not yet any way. Still, it’s got people buzzing.”
World’s ‘moral compass’
The coming months and years will likely see ever more applications of this technology – in fact at the time of writing, a Federal Safety Board was due to meet in the US to consider its first human use. However, regulatory red-tape and the guardians of the world’s ‘moral compass’ will certainly play a big part in determining exactly how ‘genetic tinkering’ plays out. As a result, any widespread application of this type of technique being used as a viable option for hair loss treatment is definitely a long way off yet.
At present there are two primary treatments for pattern hair loss available which are clinically-proven and successfully used by men and women worldwide to prevent shedding and promote regrowth.
The first is the oral tablet, finasteride 1mg is suitable for men aged 18+ only and is taken daily to inhibit the formation of DHT – the enzyme in the body which has no real purpose following puberty but latches on to hair follicles around the top of the head in people who are predisposed to genetic hair loss, causing the hairs to gradually thin and fall out. This is why men tend to see defined areas of hairloss – such as a thinning crown or a receding hairline – while women generally experience a more diffuse hair thinning across the top of the scalp.
The second is a solution of high strength minoxidil which Belgravia offers in a range of formulations, and is applied directly to the scalp either once or twice per day as advised by your personal hair loss specialist. This is suitable for both men and women with androgenetic alopecia and men have the option of using it alongside finasteride 1mg as part of a fully rounded combination treatment course.
Both men and women can complement the pharmaceutical aspects of their bespoke treatment course with hair growth boosters, from nutritional food supplements to improve the condition of the hair to low-level laser therapy, to help achieve the best possible results.
The regrowth success rates from following these types of personalised regimes are impressive. Treatment does, however, need to be ongoing given that pattern hair loss is a permanent condition and the DHT needs to be kept in check in order for hair growth to remain unhindered.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.