Hair Loss Research Raises Hope for New Treatments

by Staff Writer

A recent article at SFGate.com explores the use of biotechnology in searching for new hair loss treatments. While not a life threatening disease, hair loss certainly has a devastating effect on sufferers. Kaiser Permanente dermatologist Paradi Mirmirani explains, “”I have tearful patients in my office many times a day. When they lose their hair, they feel like they’ve lost their identity.”

A Multibillion Dollar Industry

Although most health insurance providers don’t reimburse policy holders for hair loss treatments, many individuals are willing to pay out of pocket. Over one billion dollars are spent every years on hair loss drugs and transplants, making it a lucrative industry. The good news for hair loss sufferers is that this kind of revenue motivates pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers to search for more effective treatments.

They’re throwing an arsenal of high-tech tools at the condition: genome studies, stem cell stimulation, gene therapy, a type of tissue engineering often called “hair cloning” and even robotics.

Currently there are only two drugs for hair loss that are approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and The American Hair Loss Association. Those are Merck’s Propecia and Johnson & Johnson’s Rogaine (generic name minoxidil). However, several companies are looking to expand on the number of effective drug treatments for hair loss. They are also looking beyond drugs, to improving transplants and cultivating hair follicles to increase hair growth.

Drugs Under Development

• Pfizer, Inc is developing a drug that works the same way as Rogaine for topical use.
• Pfizer is also working on another drug treatment, which will mimic the effect of thyroid hormones.
• AndroScience Corp. is working on a drug that degrades cell receptors for dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that stops hair follicles from producing new hairs.

Transplant Improvements

• Restoration Robotics is developing surgical equipment that would allow surgeons to perform faster and cheaper transplants.

Follicle Cultivation

• Follica Inc. is working on methods for generating new hair follicles, which is currently seen as high risk and is in extremely early stages of development.
• Aderans Research Institute is looking at ways to multiply key cells from the scalp, which would then be injected or seeded into the scalp to generate new follicles.

The promise for better solutions to hair loss has many hair loss sufferers feeling hopeful that in the near future there will be more choices and better treatments.

You can read the entire SFGate article at the following link:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/06/BU4IVBIV2.DTL&type=tech

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