Alopecia is disease of unpredictable prognosis. There are many medical and non medical hair loss treatments that have helped patients fight alopecia in the last decade. Thorough reviews of all the conventional and existing methods show that none of them show a long term, substantial improvement in arresting alopecia areata and regrowing lost hair. But with advances in technologies and various ongoing clinical trials, the future of hair loss treatment looks very promising. From gene mapping and scalp transplant to route of administration and stem cell research, scientists are trying to figure out a new way to combat this disorder.
The future of hair loss treatment includes:
- Scalp transplant: This treatment involves transplanting the whole scalp from a donor to a recipient. If successfully done, it provides a lot term relief from all the major hair fall disorder. But it’s essential that the body does not mistake the tissues of the donor scalp as a foreign body and rejects it. Therefore it is essential to do “tissue typing” to ensure that the recipient tissues are similar to the donor tissues and chances of rejection are minimized. The recipients may also be dependent on anti rejection medications for the rest of their life
- Mapping genes: There is a huge population suffering from hereditary hair loss. With latest research on DNA and gene mapping, scientists are studying the pattern and behavior of the genes responsible for hair loss. Preclinical studies done on mouse suggest that gene Sox21 could be the one of the genes responsible for hair loss. Researchers blocked the activity of this gene in rodents and observed that within 2 weeks the mice lost all the hair on the head and a week later, became naked with no body hair. The research scientists are trying to understand the genetics of alopecia areata in the general population so as to develop methods for early intervention, disease prevention and treatments for this disorder.
- Route of administration: There is extensive research in progress regarding the root of administration of the drugs. The current route comprises of oral and external applications. Since the bioavailability of the drugs through these routes are not 100%, by the time the reach the targeted area, they may be partially excreted or undergone some chemical change. It’s important that the drug penetrates the fat under the skin so as to reach the targeted area directly. Researchers are attempting to use liposome as the new way of administering drugs. Liposome is a tiny vesicle made of material that is similar to that of cell membrane and is used to carry drugs for certain diseases.
- Stem cell biology: Stem cells found in multi cellular organisms have the ability to renew themselves through mitotic division creating millions of new cells. There are two types of stem cells- embryonic stem cells and non-embryonic (individuals) stem cells. These stem cells can replicate into diverse range of specialized cell types.
The non-embryonic (individuals) stem cells can be used for initiating new hair growth in alopecia patients. These cells can renew themselves to replicate and form new cells which divide and transform into specialized cells. Once they turn into hair follicles, the can generate hair growth and replace the hair follicles that are dysfunctional. In their endeavor, researchers hope to isolate stem cells from a healthy area and transplant them into an area afflicted by alopecia. But the research is still in a nascent stage.
- Study of hair follicle development: There are preclinical studies underway that are studying the development of hair follicles in mouse embryos. The researchers are attempting a better understanding of hair cell biology that may possibly shed some light on the underlying disorders.