We often get asked by patients about whether gene therapy will ever provide a ‘cure’ for baldness. At present, The Belgravia Centre has achieved great results when regrowing thinning hair, but as with all hair loss treatments, completely bald patches of scalp cannot be re-stimulated to produce hair, the only option then being a hair transplant.
Below we sum up the advancements so far, and look at how close science is getting to a licensed gene therapy cure for hair loss.
Gene Therapy Time Line
1998: Scientists at Columbia University discover ‘hairless’ gene responsible for human baldness, specifically for Alopecia Universalis, a condition which causes complete hair loss.
2007: At the University of Pennsylvania, scientists manage to regenerate healthy hair follicles in adult mice, counteracting the long held belief that mammals are born with a limited amount of hair follicles that cannot be increased. The regrowth is achieved with a group of genes that are switched off after the embryo stage of development, but which can be re-activated, making stem cells go to a wound and form new hair follicles. Scientists also discover that injecting a protein called Wnt onto the patch of damaged skin doubles the amount of hair follicles formed.
2012: The European Commission approves the use of gene therapy Glybera to treat the rare genetic disease lipoprotein lipase deficiency. This is the first regulatory approval of a gene therapy drug in the Western world.
Whilst this approval paves the way for gene therapy to be used in other areas of medicine, the field has been plagued with problems during its clinical trials. Patients have gone on to develop leukemia, and in one case in America a teenager died.
So, it would seem that whilst the results of studies over the past years are both fascinating and encouraging in the fight against hair loss, the risks of gene therapy mean that new medicines will be subject to intense scrutiny by medical licensing committees. Whilst the science behind gene therapy for hair loss is certainly plausible, the realisation of gene therapy for those suffering from hair loss in the Western world could be a long way off.
The Belgravia Centre —————————————————————————————————
The Belgravia Centre is the leading hair loss clinic in the UK, based in Central London. We offer clinically proven treatments for hair loss, as part of comprehensive treatment programmes offered by our hair loss specialists. Our in-house pharmacy produces high-strength medications for hair loss that contain medically proven ingredients and are available at no other clinic worldwide. Treatment programmes are available by visiting the centre or for home-use, 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 hair regrowth so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. Phone 0800 077 6666 for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.