The quest to understand and conquer hair loss is leading scientists to ever more discoveries about the hair growth cycle, with some experts now more convinced than ever that the key to sustained hair growth is something called the Wnt pathway.
Research teams including those funded by a US company named Samumed have been trying to understand and exploit the Wnt pathway for a number of years in the hope that they can manipulate it to encourage new hair growth in people with a genetic hair loss condition – namely Male Pattern Baldness or, in women, Female Pattern Hair Loss.
Now, scientists from the A*STAR Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) and Stanford University say they have discovered more evidence that Wnt signaling is absolutely critical to hair growth.
Wnt signaling pathways are made of proteins that pass signals into a cell and – for want of a better term – tell it what to do. According to the website medicalxpress.com, the IMB and Stanford teams have discovered that Wnt signaling is crucial to the maintenance of hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) through their entire life-cycle, including during the resting (telogen) phase of the growth cycle.
The article explains how studies have previously suggested that hair loss is caused when we run out of HFSCs, and that one of the great mysteries about HFSCs is how they retain their ability to self-renew –while refraining from actually doing so – during the resting phase.
The answer, according to the IMB and Stanford teams, is Wnt signaling.
The medicalxpress team article says that: “Unlike most other tissue stem cells that are dependent on sustaining signals from adjacent niche stem cells, the researchers found that HFSCs can maintain their stemness and growth potential by producing their own Wnt signals.”
IMB Principal Investigator Dr Lim Xinhong, the study’s lead author, is then quoted in the article: “We study basic skin biology in the hope of developing treatments for common skin problems like hair loss,” he says, “By using cutting-edge techniques that enable us to study HFSC behaviour with high sensitivity, we have shown for the first time that Wnt signaling is required for HFSC maintenance. This reinforces the idea that safely manipulating Wnt signaling may be a crucial part of hair loss treatments.”
The aforementioned Samumed, who appear to be leading the way in terms of pursuing a commercial product that exploits the Wnt pathway as it relates to hairloss, have already released information about a 300-person phase II clinical trial of theirs.
The product they have been testing has been named SM04554, which they say is a “small molecule compound” that appears to be a solution that is applied to the scalp. Data released last year showed promising if perhaps unremarkable results, with the highest growth (of around 10 per cent) seen by men who used a low concentration of the drug. The company’s research continues.
Japanese market and currently available options
Stem cell based hair loss treatments are unlikely to appear on the market for several years – the earliest could be the one proposed by RepliCel and Shiseido, which may hit the Japanese market in 2018 – but that doesn’t mean people with genetic hair thinning have to wait for treatment as there are already clinically-proven products that have seen hundreds of thousands if not millions of success stories around the world.
There are MHRA licensed and FDA approved genetic hair loss treatments available to both men (topical and oral) and women (topical only), which have been seen to produce encouraging results when used consistently and in the appropriate formulations. Supplemental hair growth supporting products may also be used in tandem with this pharmaceutical approach.
Anyone worried about losing their hair or experiencing unusual levels of shedding should seek advice from a hair loss expert as soon as possible so that a timely diagnosis can be established. From there, suitable hair loss solutions can be recommended for consideration and any questions answered that will help to form a considered opinion as to how to best proceed.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. 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 world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.