Q: I know that both Aderans and Intercytex are doing research with cloning hair. Is there any difference in their approaches?
A: Aderans is using the "two-cell” approach. They feel that the best way to produce viable hair follicles is to use a combination of inducer cells and responder cells. Each would be multiplied separately and then injected together into the skin. The inducer cells are follicular fibroblasts and lie at the base of the hair follicle. The responder cells are keratinocytes. They feel that the combination of cells will have the best chance of producing clinically useful hair.
Intercytex prefers a one-cell approach. Their researchers feel that when the cultured inducer fibroblasts are injected into the skin there will be enough existing cells in the skin to produce a cosmetically viable hair. In their experimentation, Intercytex uses a new animal model, termed the “flap graft” model, that involves the implantation of cultured dermal papilla cells with keratinocytes placed under a flap on the back of hairless mice. Later the flap is exteriorized (turned over), allowing the hair to grow normally. Exactly how this will be applied to clinical use in humans is not clear.
A completely different view is held Dr. Ralf Paus at the University of Luebeck in Germany. He feels that there are already enough stem cells in the bald scalp and that the key to hair re-growth is to target key elements in the hair cycle. He feels that topically applied inhibitors of catagen (the resting phase of the hair cycle), exogen (the formation of an empty hair follicle), or inhibitors of the terminal-to-vellus transformation (the process of a hair shrinking in size under the influence of DHT and referred to as miniaturization) will the most effective way to go. Finasteride and dutasteride are drugs that work in this way, but are clearly not very effective in stimulating new growth. He also feels that an anagen inducer, along the lines of a minoxidil-type medication has a better chance of success then the stem cell targeting strategies described above. In these cases one would, in a sense, rejuvenate dormant hair follicles rather than induce new ones to grow.