29 July 2018
If you’re wondering why scientists haven’t cracked the hair loss code already, you aren’t alone.
Millions of guys around the world watch scientists develop cutting edge treatments and cure countless diseases. It makes you ask, “What’s taking so long?”
The unfortunate truth is that hair physiology is complicated. Male pattern baldness is determined at the genetic level. Short of modifying your genes, there’s no direct treatment for hair loss. All we can do is treat the symptoms.
However, even treating the symptoms is a challenge…
Hair grows in a cycle of distinct phases. Sometimes it takes a hair a full year to go through the cycle.
When scientists try new treatments, they often have to wait a year (or more, in some cases) to evaluate their results. That adds a lot of time to their experiments.
Furthermore, the FDA places a hefty burden on any company researching anything that has to do with healthcare. There are several phases of clinical trials, some of which can take years.
These trials are designed for our safety and to identify the real effectiveness of treatments, but the wait can be painful.
However, the biggest reason hair loss science hasn’t found a cure yet is that it’s just not as well funded as other areas of medical research.
Cosmetic causes don’t get as much money as we’d like when there are bigger medical priorities that still need to be addressed. Hair loss isn’t fatal, after all.
Nevertheless, none of these reasons mean we won’t ever see a cure for hair loss. They just mean we have to wait.
Free download: 7 Companies to Follow Who Are Working on a Hair Loss Cure
When people talk about a cure for hair loss, they’re likely referring to various things. The cure could take a few different forms.
Will it be a method of preventing hair loss in the first place, like a vaccine? Perhaps it will target the primary cause of male pattern baldness by preventing DHT from binding to hair follicles entirely. This would require significant advancements in stem cell therapy and gene therapy.
When people refer to a hair loss cure, they mean different things. The cure could take a few different forms.
If so, millions of future guys will never have to endure hair loss, but it won’t do anything for guys who have already lost hair and want to regain it. That’s a hard pill to swallow for dudes who are already dealing with significant hair loss.
Or will the cure be a way to bring back one’s hair? Perhaps there will be a technique to force an old follicle to start growing hair again or a way to introduce new healthy follicles to the scalp.
If so, anyone would be able to rebuild a healthy head of hair, but it wouldn’t stop baldness in the first place. This means DHT would continue to erode your hair and you may need to retreat your condition several times over the course of your life.
In a perfect world, we would discover treatments to address both solutions – prevention and recovery – but there are big obstacles in the way for science to overcome.
You see, there’s always an article or a presentation or a press release that claims there’s a cure for hair loss coming in less than five years. Hair loss sufferers have been five years away from a cure for 40 years.
However, there’s more hair loss research and progress happening now than ever before. There are a lot of companies investing money in different kinds of hair loss treatments. Just look at this list!
It’s important to temper our hopes, but it’s hard not to get excited about some of the techniques scientists are developing, especially from Japanese companies.
Here’s what’s on the horizon:
Cell therapy is the process of removing, administering, or manipulating cells to treat a disease or condition. Depending on the treatment, doctors can use your own cells or cells from another person. Cell therapy for hair loss includes a number of techniques, but they all use autologous cells, which are your own cells.
Basically, they remove a specific kind of healthy cell from one of your DHT-resistant hair follicles (the hair on the back and sides that doesn’t go away). Then they inject those cells into the top and crown your head. The procedure should trigger those cells to begin the process of building new follicles.
Here’s a great video of this process by the leader in this research, RepliCel.
Follicle neogenesis is the process of regenerating follicular tissue. Doctors attempt to trigger neogenesis by manipulating dermal papilla cells, the cells responsible for follicle growth.
In some cases, wounds can cause the dermal papilla cells to produce a new follicle. Doctors have observed this since the 1940s, but recently they learned how to stimulate this response.
By wounding in a precise way, they can trigger the dermal papilla cells to begin production of a new, hair-growing follicle. Currently they’re looking for the best way to wound your hair follicles (micro-injury to a group of cells, partial amputation of the follicle and dermal papilla, or full amputation of the follicle).
Hair cloning and hair multiplication (common terms used to explain the same thing) are techniques where follicle cells are removed from the patient’s scalp, cultivated, and forced to multiply in vitro (in a petri dish, essentially). This technique could potentially turn a few dozen hair follicle cells to tens of thousands.
The downside of this approach is that depending on how the cells are grown; the result may rely on the doctor’s ability to artistically transplant follicles into your scalp. Hair transplant doctors have come a long way since the 80s, but a truly natural look is difficult and expensive.
Male pattern baldness is a genetic condition, so it stands to reason that the best treatment would affect your genetics.
In 2015, scientists uncovered CRISPR, a cheap and simple technique to edit one’s genes. It can be used to strategically turn off or on your genetic traits. This means one day you may be able to completely fix your baldness with a single injection.
Unfortunately, this technology is still new. Trials need to be run in order to gauge the real effects of editing your genes. But if it works, not only could we completely reverse hair loss, but we could stop it from ever happening in the first place.
Want to know more about upcoming treatments? Read about the big companies who are on the cusp of a hair loss cure.
It’s an exciting time for new scientific discoveries. Laboratories all over the world are experimenting with new drugs and trialing new processes that were mere science fiction ten years ago. There are a half dozen companies working on hair loss right now that expect to release their treatments (or valuable research) in 2018 or 2019. However, there are numerous treatments on the market today that are effective in preventing hair loss and assisting with hair regrowth, with clinical studies supporting this. Don't wait until you have already lost most of your hair. Prevention is key! Complete the online questionnaire and take the first step towards beating that creeping hairline.
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