Generating New Hair Follicles in Wounds

Follica, a US-based medical device company, is developing a novel approach that consists in generating completely new hair follicles in wounds of hair-free skin. This technique was licensed from the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers studying skin healing processes at the university noticed that new hair follicles formed in the middle of some wounds. They learned that when the skin's top layers were removed, some cells within the wound reverted to a more primitive state from which they could develop into either hair or skin. Follica has further developed this work and filed patents to protect their technique.

It is claimed that translating the research into a treatment for humans involves only devices and drugs that are already available on the market. A doctor would first use a microdermabrasion tool or a laser to remove the top layers of the skin as is already commonly done in a number of cosmetic procedures. He would then inject drugs that cause the cells to grow either hair or skin, depending on the drug injected. It was not made public which drugs would be used, except to say that they were small-molecule drugs normally taken orally for purposes unrelated to hair growth. Because the components of the system are already approved, the regulatory path is thought to be relatively straightforward and Follica should go ahead with human studies within a few months. The trial has several phases and the final data will not be available for at least a year. Going through Phases I, II and III of clinical trials would normally take about six years but in this case it appears that the process could be significantly shorter.

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