hair stem cell generalEarlier this month, Follica, the biotechnology organization headed by University of Pennsylvania hair loss researcher Dr. George Cotsarelis, made two new important announcements. First, they announced the discovery of a new growth factor protein, known as “fibroblast growth factor 9” or “fgf9,” which may prove to be an important factor in the growth of new hair follicles. Second, Follica announced that they had successfully grown a new hair follicle on human scalp during their “scalp wounding” hair restoration studies.

For several years, Follica has researched the correlation between wound healing and new hair growth. The theory behind this idea comes from observations made during wound healing studies performed on animals. In a number of research projects, scientists were able to show an increase in hair growth during wound healing in animals (such as laboratory mice). These researchers concluded that the process of healing tissue and creating scars in these animals somehow overlapped with the creation of new hair follicles.

Follica noted these findings and decided to apply the theory to the human scalp. For a number of years, Follica completed these “wounding studies” by creating a wound (likely a small incision with a needle or scalpel) in the scalp, adding certain growth factors, and monitoring for signs of new hair growth during the healing process.

Earlier this month, Follica seemed to reach a breakthrough by creating new hair follicle growth with the scalp wounding method. However, at this point in time, it is still (partially) unknown which growth factors were added to create the new follicles and how much growth was actually achieved.

However, alongside the wounding studies update, Follica also announced the discovery of fgf9 – a growth factor protein which may be crucial in the creation of new hair follicles. During the wounding research, Follica noted high levels of fgf9 in the scalp (of the animal models) right before the creation of new hair follicles. When the team tested the levels of fgf9 in the human scalp wounding trials, they noted a very limited supply of the growth protein. From this, Follica inferred that not only is fgf9 crucial in the regrowth of new follicles during the wounding process, but it is also essentially absent from the human scalp. This means adding the fgf9 to the human scalp as it is healing may allow the body to grow new hair follicles.

It’s not clear, at this point in time, if Follica’s next step is adding the fgf9 growth factor to the wounding studies, but many hair loss sufferers believe this will be tested next. Regardless, it is exciting future hair loss treatment news! Please check back for future updates on Follica and their clinical trials.

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Blake – aka Future_HT_Doc

Editorial Assistant and Forum Co-Moderator for the Hair Transplant Network, the Hair Loss Learning

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