SAN DIEGO — A local biotech company is working on a cure for baldness using an injectable solution derived from stem cells.
Hair loss and baldness affect millions of Americans, but is a cure really on the horizon?
Gail Naughton, the chief scientific officer at Histogen, said the company uses stem cells harvested from a single source.
“We get the cells from an actual donor - routine circumcision,” she said.
Inside the firm’s Sorrento Valley laboratories, scientists use those stem cells to produce a growth factor; a solution that can be injected into hair follicles that have stopped growing hair.
“The growth factors that we're delivering wake up your cells that help grow new hair,” Naughton said.
The company is getting ready to launch its fourth clinical trial to determine the correct dosage. Initial results are promising.
“We took before and after photographs and showed it to young children – four or five years old – and said, ‘What's the difference?’ And I remember when they said, ‘More hair, more hair!’ And I said okay we have something here,” recalled Naughton.
Histogen’s injection procedure uses a very thin needle about the size of an acupuncture needle.
“There [have] been no complaints whatsoever about it hurting or having any kind of ill comfort," said Naughton. "What we see within about 12 weeks of the first injection, we start seeing these new hairs."
The market for a cure to hair loss would certainly be huge.
“There are about 50 million men in the United States and 30 million women who lose their hair each year, so, it's a massive problem for both men and women,” said Naughton.
Two FDA approved treatments currently available are finasteride or minoxidil, which can cause side effects. Hair transplantation is another option, but the procedure can be painful.
Histogen plans to have their product on the market in three to four years.