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Jun 20, 2013
 |  BC Innovations  |  Targets & Mechanisms

FGF9 for baldness

A University of Pennsylvania team has found that increasing fibroblast growth factor 9 levels in wounded skin can promote the growth of hair follicles in mice.1Follica Inc. has licensed the findings and plans to test the effects of the growth factor in hair growth indications.

Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, occurs when circulating hormones cause hair follicles to shrink and eventually stop producing hair. Treatments include Rogaine minoxidil from

Johnson & Johnson, a vasodilator thought to increase nutrient supply to the follicles and prevent miniaturization, and Propecia finasteride from Merck & Co. Inc., which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.

Minoxidil needs to be applied twice a day and can actually cause hair loss in some patients. Finasteride's effects on hormone balance can lead to side effects such as loss of libido. Both molecules are indicated to prevent future hair loss but do not regrow lost hair.

An alternative to therapeutically inhibiting hair loss is hair transplantation, which involves relocating a patient's healthy follicles to sites of baldness. The procedure is the only approved method that actually replaces lost hair, but it is invasive and requires that a patient have some hair to transplant.

Also, the transplanted hairs remain subject to the same factors that caused follicle miniaturization in the first place, suggesting the solution is not permanent.

In a search for alternatives, George Cotsarelis and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania have been studying the process in mice. In 2007, the team found that skin wounds in mice initiated the formation of new hair follicles, a process called hair follicle neogenesis, through upregulation of the wingless-type MMTV integration site (Wnt) pathway.2

Now, the researchers have zeroed...

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