Promising new technologies in the field of stem-cell research and how it may help with hair loss
are to be taken to market thanks to the involvement of a Japanese tech company better known for its solar panels and computer printers.
Kyoto-based Kyocera aim to commercialise the work of the Riken
Research Institute and Organ Technologies which enables new hair follicles to be grown in a lab. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Kyocera say that they will develop prototype equipment within two years and that human clinical studies will begin in 2020.
The long-term aim is to offer a service whereby clinics can take a small sample of a patient’s scalp, send it to Kyocera-approved labs and, within three weeks, receive thousands of living hair follicles
which can be implanted in a patient’s head.
Riken's Scientists have discovered how to artificially create skin cells that will grow hair
No donor hair required
The physical procedure for implanting these follicles into a patient’s scalp would likely be very similar to current methods used in FUE hair transplants
, the key difference being that no donor hair would be required. In traditional hair restoration
surgery, hair follicles are taken from the more abundant spots on the head where it can be spared.
Nikkei Asian Review says that Kyocera are a good fit for the commercialisation of the technology, as they are well-versed in making precision parts and have medical experience in the field of artificial joints.
The announcement suggests that plans to bring Riken’s technologies to market are gathering steam rapidly, as it was only in April of this year that the government-backed Riken announced that they had grown fully-functioning skin containing sweat glands and hair follicles for the first time.
The news was welcomed as groundbreaking as it was a marked improvement on existing stem cell technologies which had thus far only created the outer layer of skin rather than the full organ.
Much was made at the time at the scientists’ use of the Wnt pathway, a conduit made of proteins that pass signals into a cell through cell surface receptors. The Japanese team said that the role of the Wnt10n pathway had been key to their success, which seemed to add weight to the notion that the Wnt pathway was important to hair regeneration, something first observed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013.
Another stem cell-based treatment named Samumed SM04554
exploits the Wnt pathway and is currently undergoing clinical trials.
Different hair loss technologies
Future treatments for hair loss conditions such as Male Pattern Baldness
that are based around stem cell research represent an entirely different approach to those currently offered.
Whilst stem cell hair loss treatments are not yet available and are unlikely to be available until 2021 at the earliest on current estimates, there are male hair loss treatment
courses available now which are effective and non-invasive. These revolve around using either or both of the only two clinically-proven and MHRA licensed products - which are also FDA approved: a daily oral tablet called finasteride 1mg
which inhibits the formation of DHT
- the enzyme which causes hair thinning in those with a genetic predisposition to this hereditary condition - and topical applications of high strength minoxidil
formulations to help accelerate the hair growth process.
Supplementary hair growth supporting products
can also be used by men and women alongside these recognised medications.
Whether or not the end result of a successful, lab-grown hair transplant will be better than what is available right now - should it get the necessary safety and efficacy go aheads - remains to be seen. There is also no indication as to what kind of price the treatment would cost or how many treatments may be required. Existing hair transplant procedures can easily be upwards of £6,000 and more than one session of surgery can be required to get the desired results.
What is important, however, is that stem cell therapies may offer the only viable solution for hair growth in some cases. These include advanced Male Pattern Baldness where the scalp is smooth and shiny and the hair follicles are no longer capable of producing hair, and also potentially Scarring Alopecia
, where - in both cases - other forms of treatment are not possible due to death of the hair follicles.