Technology licensed by Follica Inc. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has been used to generate completely new hair follicles for the first time in normal adult mammals. The paper describing the experiment was published in the May 17th issue of the scientific journal Nature.
By studying wound healing on a molecular level, Dr. George Cotsarelis and colleagues discovered that the skin has the ability to revert to a more primitive or ?embryonic? state as stem cells migrate to the affected area, thereby achieving a regenerative capacity not previously appreciated to occur in adults.
The researchers were able to control the regenerative response, including the extent of new hair follicle formation, by manipulating genetic pathways during this ?embryonic window? when new follicles formed. The new hair follicles functioned normally, cycled through the normal stages of hair growth and exhibited normal architecture, including a full complement of stem cells. Cotsarelis and colleagues showed that the induction of this primitive state triggered corresponding embryonic molecular pathways distinct from those active in corresponding cells in adult skin, opening up new treatment options not previously thought to have therapeutic benefit in normal adult skin.
?The ?embryonic window? gives us the opportunity to develop disease treatments that act in entirely novel ways,? said Daphne Zohar, PureTech Ventures founding managing partner and Follica CEO. ?The clinical translation of this technique involves straightforward, safe dermatological procedures, and we are studying the impact of multiple drugs and drug-like compounds on this regenerative response as we advance in preclinical testing.?
“This is an extremely exciting discovery and shows promise for treatment of follicular disorders such as hair loss and unwanted excess hair,” noted Dr. Vera Price, co-founder of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Hair Research Center and a founding scientific advisory board member of Follica Inc.
?The hair follicle is an elegant structure that plays many different roles for human skin, aside from growing hair,? said Dr. Rox Anderson, Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and founding chairman of Follica?s scientific advisory board. ?George Cotsarelis? insights into the biology of hair follicles provide new strategies for preventing and treating a variety of skin and hair disorders.?