US clinical study seeks to see if stem cells can cure baldness

Four American surgeons are the latest group of many worldwide who are attempting to see how stem cells could be used to combat baldness.

In the five-patient study lead by Kenneth Williams, D.O. of Orange County Hair Restoration, a clinical trial is taking place in which PRP and stem cells are being used in conjunction with each other to treat hair loss. Fat is removed from the abdomen before being emulsified to separate the stem cells. These cells are then mixed with the patient’s concentrated plasma before the mixed formula is injected into the scalp. Williams hopes the results of his study will be publishable in two years’ time. “The study is taking cells that are in our body that help to regenerate or stimulate inactive or dormant hair follicles,” he told news outlets. “That is the theory behind what we’re doing this procedure on.”

Overseas trials already showing promise

The American Hair Loss Association notes that two-thirds of men will experience some thinning by the age of 35, while by the age of 50, roughly 85 per cent will be affected by significant thinning.

It’s perhaps no wonder then that so many scientists around the world are searching for ways to utilise stem cells to cure the condition. Clinical trials in Japan for example are already making significant strides in research; Kyocera Corp and Organ Technologies are conducting regenerative medicine trials in attempts to develop a cure. Led by Takashi Tsuji, the research team has already had some success in regeneration using stem cells, using them to reinvigorate hair follicles in mice. Hormones can impact the natural cycle of hair follicle regeneration, which is powered by stem cells, as can damage caused via trauma. Taking tips from skin restoration, follicular regenerative medicine works by removing small patches of skin and hair follicles from scalp to extract active stem cells. These are then multiplied, processed, and transformed into follicles using what Tsuji has dubbed the primordium method. These transformed cells are then injected into the patient’s scalp. This process differs from current baldness cures as the hair follicles are actually regenerated, as opposed to treatments such as hair transplants, which simply move the hair from one place to another.

Given that approximately 18 million people suffer with hair loss in Japan, it’s not only Takashi Tsuji and his team who are on working on potential cures. Cosmetic giants Shiseido Co. have plans to release a cure for baldness throughout Japan and other countries in Asia as early as next year.

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Leeds scientists make breakthrough with potential brain tumour treatment

A new study has revealed that targeting the RAD51 molecule could potentially help oncologists treat aggressive brain tumours.

Although the molecule helps cells to repair their DNA, the new study has found that targeting the molecule actually increased the effectiveness of radiotherapy to kill glioblastoma. The University of Leeds carried out the study with funding from Cancer Research UK, and the findings were published in Stem Cell Reports.

Glioblastomas are the most common type of brain tumour affecting adults, treatment for which typically has a low rate of success. It is estimated that less than five in every 100 patients with the disease will live beyond five years after their diagnosis.

While the treatment is some years off being suitable for use in clinical trials, these initial results are a step in the right direction, according to Dr. Justine Alford, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer. “This promising study in cells and mice may have found a way to cut off the tumour’s fuel supply,” she said, adding that the approach “could one day help treatments target the disease more precisely and effectively.”

What is RAD51?

RAD51 is a gene that assists with the “homologous recombination and repair of DNA,” or in other words, helps cancer cells repair following radiotherapy treatment.

Researchers believed that one of the reasons glioblastoma cells proved so hard to treat is because of the presence of this RAD51, which leads to cells being able to duplicate quickly and make copies that are highly resistant to treatment. Given that this subgroup of troublesome cells – called glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) – contained such high levels of the RAD51, researchers used an inhibitor drug on mice that would in effect target this molecule. “By targeting RAD51 with an inhibitor we were able to make these GSCs more sensitive to the effects of radiotherapy, helping remove the tumour,” reveals Dr. Susan Short, lead author of the study. “The exact mechanism by which RAD51 becomes increased in cells that survive radiotherapy is not yet known, but our study provides strong evidence that this is the right protein to target in the treatment of this aggressive brain cancer.”

This most recent study therefore brings welcome news to the cancer research community, following one from Cambridge University last year. As reported on by Ajan Reginald, the research presented a clearer picture of how and why cancer develops, potentially taking scientists one step closer to finding a cure.

Could Stem Cells Be Used To Restore Vision?

The eye is one of the most structurally complex parts of the body. Different disorders of the eye develop when one or more of the components stop working. This is why it is so difficult to treat conditions of the eye, and reverse sight loss.

Stem cells may well hold the answer.  By replacing damaged cells with new, healthy, specialised cells, it could be possible to reverse the damage done and restore vision.

Currently the only clinically approved stem cell treatment for the eye is Holoclar®, a treatment which restores vision to patients with damaged corneas by transplanting limbal stem cells into areas where these cells are lacking.

Use in Macular Degeneration

One of the leading causes of vision loss is Macular Degeneration (MD), a painless, age-related eye condition, which causes the person to lose their central vision making vision blurry.

Stem cell therapy has been trialled to treat MD but has so far been unsuccessful due to the replacement cells struggling to integrate into the original tissue.

Researchers may have found a solution to this in the form of an injection of an  immune system protein- Mesencephalic Astrocyte-derived Neurotrophic Factor (MANF) – to assist with the integration.  Research carried out by the Buck Institute showed success in retinal stem cell transplants on congenitally blind mice, and human trials are the next step.

If the protein is successful in human therapy, it could be used to treat early-stage MD in the future.

MANF has previously been studied by other scientists, including  Ajan Rejinald, CEO of Celixir,  for its role in conditions like Parkinson’s disease