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Are Latest Research Findings Too Good or Are They True?

Scientists Say They Successfully Stopped Hair Loss and Speeded Up Hair Regrowth

Professor Choi Kang-yeol of Yonsei University is the man of the moment in the hair restoration community. This follows the publication of, “Targeting of CXXC5 by a Competing Peptide Stimulates Hair Regrowth and Wound-Induced Hair Neogenesis,” in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology,” which describes a treatment that both prevents hair loss and promotes the growth of new hair follicles.

That’s a powerful one-two punch and it’s captured the imagination of everyone who experiences hair loss from androgenetic alopecia, also known as pattern baldness. It is the most common type of hair loss in both men and women.

Kang-yeol led a team of researchers that identified CXXC-type zinc finger protein 5 (CXXC5), which is a protein they believe is responsible for hair loss.

“We have found a protein that controls the hair growth and developed a new substance that promotes hair regeneration by controlling the function of the protein,” said Kang-yeol in the announcement of the research findings.

CXXC5 appears to act as a negative regulator on the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, which studies have confirmed is linked to hair regeneration and wound healing. When CXXC5 binds with another protein called “Dishevelled,” the combination restricts hair growth and wound regeneration.

That discovery led the team to explore how they could effectively and predictably stop the binding process. If they could do that, they could limit or eliminate the negative impact of CXXC5. This led to the development of a new biochemical substance, called PTD-DBM, which interferes with this binding process.

When Kang-yeol’s team applied PTD-DBM to the bare skin of bald mice for 28 days, they observed new follicles develop.

This is where the story gets a little breathless in its enthusiasm, kind of like an infomercial when the host says, “But wait, there’s more!”

Kang-yeol’s team apparently wasn’t satisfied with merely reversing hair loss and promoting hair regrowth, which has been the holy grail of hair researchers for more than a generation. They wanted to see if they could make the hair on the formerly bald mice grow faster. And their research findings suggest they were successful.

They turned to a chemical substance known to activate the Wnt signaling pathway known as valproic acid (VPA). When the team applied a combination of PTD-DBM and VPA, new hair grew faster. But it wasn’t until they added a process known as wound-induced hair neogenesis (WIHN) that they achieved the maximum positive result.

The WIHN phenomenon was first observed about 70 years ago and has been studies a lot in recent years. The 2015 study, “Principles and mechanisms of regeneration in the mouse model for wound-induced hair follicle neogenesis,” describes it this way:

“…fully functional hair follicles regenerate de novo (from the beginning) in the center of large excisional wounds…. The process of de novo hair regeneration largely duplicates the morphological and signaling features of normal embryonic hair development.”

Basically, if you create a wound, the body’s reaction is to regenerate the skin – follicles and all. Studies have found that a technique known as microneedling can achieve the same or similar reactions, prompting the body to react as it would to a wound.

Kang-yeol’s team approached the challenge from three different directions. First, create wounds to induce the body’s natural generation of follicles. Second use VPA to stimulate the cell pathway linked to the development of follicles. Third, use PTD-PBD to prevent CXXC5 from bonding with other proteins, which would interfere with the follicular development process.

If proven to be effective through additional research, the impact of this discovery appears to be an advance on existing hair loss treatments, particularly since it would not inhibit testosterone. Currently, minoxidil and finasteride (marketed under the brand names Propecia or Proscar) are the only FDA-approved treatments for hair loss. Finasteride lowers DHT levels in the scalp by inhibiting testosterone, which can increase hair growth, but has well known side effects, including lower libido and other sexual problems.

It isn’t fully understood yet whether this new substance is safe or has potentially harmful side effects. Kang-yeol’s team is conducting additional experiments on animals to learn more about potential toxicity. This is why new medical treatments for hair loss can often take years and even decades to develop.

Nonetheless, Kang-yeol is positive and confident.

“We expect that the newly developed substance will contribute to the development of a drug that not only treats hair loss but also regenerate damaged skin tissues,” he said.

If you read our posts about research regularly you know that we are bound to throw cold water on all the excitement eventually. Even if everything goes perfectly right through the clinical trials process, it may be some time before the treatment becomes readily available. In the meantime, we are proud to be helping hundreds of patients annually with FDA-approved medications, PRP with micro-needling, and artistic hair transplants.

If you have questions, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Arocha to talk more about your options, please contact us today.