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Hair loss research developments in 2013

The most promising projects in the area of hair loss research today include development and testing of medications NEOSH101, bimatoprost, RK-023 and Avodart (dutasteride) as well as surgical techniques such as hair multiplication, also known as hair cloning, and hair generation in wounds of hair-free skin. Whereas the drugs NEOSH101, bimatoprost, RK-023 and Avodart give promise of replacing the currently most effective hair loss medications - Rogaine (minoxidil) and Propecia (finasteride) - with more powerful alternatives, surgical treatments could provide an unlimited supply of new hair follicles and thus ultimately solve the hair loss problem in most patients. There certainly is a number of other ongoing hair loss projects but this update only reviews those that are in the most advanced stages of development. Unfortunately, the common denominator for most hair loss studies in 2013 was the lack of funding.

NEOSH101 (tetrapeptide aldehyde proteasome inhibitor) is a hair-growth stimulant applied topically to the scalp once daily and it is now in phase II.b of clinical testing. This project, which was believed dead since 2008, seems to have resumed in 2013 with 140 test subjects enrolled but no further details on its progress are available yet.

Bimatoprost (trade name Lumigan, a medication used in eye drops to treat glaucoma) which was not so long ago approved by the FDA for extending and thickening of eyelashes under the new trade name Latisse is also believed to possess the ability to promote the growth of hair on the scalp. However, the data from April 2013 showed that the phase II. clinical tests failed to provide sufficient efficacy in promoting hair growth and thus it could not proceed to a late-stage study. Therefore, the originator of bimatoprost (Allergan) decided to extend the current mid-stage development program which is now due to end in January 2015.

RK-023 is a research code given to another glaucoma medication called Rescula (a novel physiologically active fatty acid derivative) that is being tested in Japan as a potential hair growth stimulant similar to bimatoprost. This drug is in clinical testing phase II. not only for treating hair loss but also for the treatment of hypotrichosis of the eyelashes. The latest results of this project come from phase II.a, which was completed in 2011, showing improvement in number of terminal hairs in subjects treated with RK-023. No data have been provided yet by phase II.b conducted in 2013, though.

Avodart (dutasteride, a dual 5-alpha reductase inhibitor) is an oral drug currently approved for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia undergoing phase IV. clinical trials in Korea for treating male pattern baldness. This study is being conducted by the originator of Avodart, GlaxoSmithKline, with 900 test subjects enrolled and its aim is to monitor the safety and effectiveness of Avodart in Korean hair loss patients. The previous, phase III. clinical trials conducted in the US and Korea showed that Avodart was an effective treatment for hereditary hair loss but only few details were released to the public. Phase IV. clinical testing, also known as post-marketing study, typically takes place after the drug has been approved by the FDA but this rule common in the US seems to be different in Korea.

Hair cloning, also known as hair multiplication or hair regeneration, is a cell-based technique that aims to provide an unlimited supply of new hair follicles. Aderans Research Institute, an affiliate of Bosley, which is considered to be the market leader in this area, announced in July 2013 that it was closing its research facility due to the lack of funding and it started auctioning its laboratory equipment. However, Aderans representatives reacted by saying that they were not going to be liquidated and their research results were encouraging. Despite that Aderans (Bosley) is no longer going to finance this project and it started looking for private funding.

Growing hair in wounds of hair-free skin, also known as follicular neogenesis, is a new technique being developed by Follica. The aim is to spur new hair growth in skin "wounds" with the help of certain chemical(s). Follica is notoriously secretive with their reporting but it confirmed that it already patented a minimally invasive "skin perturbation" device which removes the top layers of skin, causing the underlying skin cells to revert to a stem-like state. Then a chemical molecule that is being currently tested is applied and it works as a catalyst which re-programs the cells to become hair-producers. The company stated in the past that this technique only uses devices and chemicals that already exist and are used in other medicinal areas. Hence, it is hard to say whether Follica is so secretive about their study data for a good reason or whether there is just nothing new to report.

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