A new DNA-modifying technology which has been grabbing the headlines for the past few years is moving from animal-testing to humans, meaning that the days when it may be available for use to permanently eliminate genetic hair loss
in men and women may be on the horizon.
The technology is known as CRISPR
(it stands for Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and has been hailed as one of the most effective and affordable ways of manipulating DNA so that unwanted biological defects can be turned off.
Mice grew stronger muscles
To prove that it works, doctors at Duke University in North Carolina took mice which had muscular dystrophy and injected them using CRISPR technology so that their muscles grew stronger.
It has since been championed as a way to permanently “turn off” unwanted genetic traits, and could one day mean a solution to everything from cancer to sickle cell anaemia to other issues often dismissed as being "cosmetic" conditions, like androgenetic alopecia
- which is perhaps better known as male pattern baldness
and female pattern hair loss
and can significantly negatively influence
people's lives. What’s interesting is how quickly the technology is moving from research on animals to humans.
According to the Futurism website, a total of 20 different trials are set to begin later this year or in 2018, most of them in China. Much of the research will centre on trying to use the technology to switch off the tumour growth mechanism in human papillomavirus (HPV) cells. In one trial, it will be applied in gel form to the cervixes of 60 women between the ages of 18 and 50 who have HPV (as around 80 per cent of the world does).
Gel application is not the usual way that CRISPR is used (injections have thus far been the norm), but Futurity writes that the gel will still be able to deliver the all-important DNA coding.
The notion that a gel may one day exist that can permanently turn off genetic traits is enormously exciting for the world of hereditary hairloss, as this is a field in which topical application would be extremely well suited. Indeed, one of the only two clinically-proven hair loss treatments
- high strength minoxidil - is applied to the scalp where it is needed.
The ultimate in preventing hair loss
While a personalised treatment plan devised by experts
brings more to the table than this one product alone, it is still the case that treatment needs to be on-going to be effective. Instructing the DNA not to shed hair in the first place is quite simply the holy grail of hair loss.
It’s important not to get carried away, however, as the technology seems unlikely to be available for those issues seen as “cosmetic” conditions (as opposed to life-threating ones) for some time if ever, given the potential 'morality' issues associated with genetic engineering. Everything that doctors are working on in the field of genetics is closely monitored and regulated, not least because a new study into CRISPR technology at the Columbia University Medical Centre found that it may lead to unintended mutations.
For anyone experiencing excessive shedding now who is interested in preventing baldness and promoting hair growth, there are effective hair loss solutions already available. Following a consultation with a specialist, appropriate hair loss treatments and supplementary hair growth supporting products
can be recommended based on their findings.