Cloning Hairs

Startups

Gone are the days when I showed off very long curly hairs. This is something I have been coping with since I was a teenager when they went bust, from hero to zero, in a matter of just a few months. What a shock! But I still remember that day when out of the blue Bruce Willis, pictured in a magazine, came to rescue me from the doom and gloom of my new status: I was not alone.

Hair loss is more common than you may think. Over 80% of men and 50% of women experience hair loss [1,2,3]. The most common form (scientists say) is called Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) and is caused by affected hairs miniaturising in response to the hormone Di-hydroxytestosterone (DHT). It’s a gradual process which eventually leads to very small hairs.

Meanwhile, the hair transplant market is booming. For example, in 2016 patients paid US$4.1 billion for over 635,000 hair transplants, which means an increase of 64% since 2014.

However, hair transplantation isn’t suitable for everyone: for example, it cannot be performed on young men who are just beginning to lose hair and are not really suitable for women as their pattern of hair loss is more diffuse. In fact, less than 15% of hair transplants are performed on women.

Surfing equity crowdfunding platforms, I stumbled in an interesting project: a team of scientists, biotechnologists and hair transplant surgeons is working to make hair loss history by isolating specific cells in healthy hair follicles, multiplying them, then injecting them into the areas with hair loss in order to rejuvenate the miniaturising hairs.

“Current pre-clinical data indicate that the rejuvenation could return the smaller hairs to their original dimensions and that these new hairs could also be resistant to the hormone that causes the miniaturisation in the first place, DHT or Di-hydroxytestosterone,” Paul Kemp, PhD, a recognised pioneer in the field of Regenerative Medicine, told us.

“We expect that only actively miniaturising hairs would be rejuvenated. Hairs that have not yet begun to miniaturise would not be affected and hairs that have already been fully miniaturised have gone beyond the point where rejuvenation would be possible. Therefore, the treatment would need to be repeated as the natural balding proceeds and the new hairs affected by DHT begin to miniaturise,” he added.

In more technical detail, “The specific cells in the hair follicle that are responsible for the miniaturisation are called Dermal Papilla cells (DP). These cells reside in a specific niche at the base of the hair follicle. The DPs in miniaturised hairs respond to DHT, whereas those in normal, unaffected hairs are biologically different and do not respond in the same way to DHT. HairClone’s process will be to isolate the DPs from the unaffected hairs, multiply them in culture and then micro-inject them into the regions of active miniaturisation to start rejuvenation.”

HairClone, this is the name of the Company founded by a group of highly experienced scientists, biotechnologists and hair transplant surgeons involved in the design and operation of over 20 clinical trials around the world and with over 7,000 hair transplants under their belt, call this “follicle conversion”. They have also submitted a patent application to protect this product and process whilst they are also about to build the world’s first hair follicle bank so that multiple treatments could be produced from one surgical extraction of follicles.

You can find out more about their campaign here.

The Author

Doctoral researcher in Entrepreneurship with a research focus on venture financing and a passion for all things sustainability, I have developed my career in the marketing realm by helping Fortune500 companies maximise their strategic efforts. Holding a Full-Time MBA from Durham University, I blogged for the Financial Times. Find out more about me here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucasabia/