Follica (not to be confused with the hair products store Folica) is a research and development company specializing in epithelial stem cell regenerative biology. These techniques came about because of the years of scientific breakthrough documented by Cheng-Ming Chuong in 2007.
Founded in 2006, Follica is a subsidiary of Pure Tech Ventures in Boston, Ma. Pure Tech Ventures is an investment firm identifying scientific breakthroughs and supporting the research in order to develop new biotech methodologies for medical applications.
Dr. Chuong’s research originally focused on ways to help heal severe wounds from battle to burns. In his lab, he had experimented with several techniques designed to heal deep wounds that went below the epidermis and were splayed open. After years of almost successes, he used a technique discovered by other researchers that showed regeneration of hair follicles. He had no particular reason to believe that such methodology would be successful in his study but expected that he would be able to eliminate one more route.
As is true in nearly all cases, scientists do not operate in a vacuum and attempt new concepts without some stimulus from another research preceding it. In this case, Dr. George Cotsarelis used Dr. Chuong’s information and redirected his own interests. Dr. Cotsarelis discovered that traumatic disruption of the skin under certain circumstances is able to regenerate spontaneously.
In the 50s and 60s, there were sporadic reports of this self-regeneration connected with wound healing during the Korean War and after. With the lack of knowledge on the part of the scientific community about molecular biological structures, about the genetic composition of all life, and the existence of stem cells, the incident reports were shelved.
In the interim, science has caught up with the nature of biological structuring. With nanotechnology on the rise, many new identifiers are being shared across the scientific world. Dr. George Cotsarelis was able to demonstrate manipulative techniques that worked consistently to regenerate hair growth in damaged skin.
By manipulating the key signaling pathways that communicate follicle formation, Dr. Cotsarelis and Dr. Chuong were able to prove what until then had been no more than a theory. There are several pathways and several methods of manipulation that have been discovered. Some companies are using drug compounds in order to wake up sleeping stem cells within the fatty layer of tissue beneath the skin. Follica is taking a different approach. Instead of regeneration, Follica is researching multiple schemes of neogenesis – regenerating hair and skin cells where none exists.
Rather than waking dormant cells that are present, Follica is studying methods of developing new cells that had previously been destroyed. One of the newest patents that Follica has applied for includes Lithium treatments there have been research studies over the last 25 – 30 years that reveal a specific form of lithium when used in treatments for skin regeneration have shown a modicum of success. Whether this is what Follica is doing with their patent is not able to be confirmed.
Rather than referring to Follica as hair regeneration, it should be called by the term Dr. Chuong applied to it 2009 – hair engineering. This method focuses on morphogenesis – the study of how cells are assembled into functional forms. It is through this basic understanding of cell formation and assignment of what those cells are designed to do leads to a more complete understanding of how skin cells and hair follicles are able to regenerate on their own.
One of the most important discoveries by Dr. Chuong was that by tuning the balanced activity of a molecular pathway, it becomes possible to alter the shape, size and number of the ectodermal organs … skin cells.
Another exciting development in the research resulting from studies in hair loss regeneration involves the understanding of the cells in the fat layer of the skin. This research was reported by Yale University in the fall of 2011. What these researchers discovered was that without fat cells hair will not grow. Prior to this study, little credit was given to fat cells beyond the need to regulate body heat systems. The study has yet to go as far as to confirm that this could be the key to a cure for baldness but hopes in medical endocrinology are high that it will lead to a cure. This Yale Study did emphasize that this is not related to genetic causes for hair loss to their knowledge. It may lead to an understanding in how wounds heal or tumors grow.
Helping people through researching the many ways in which cells interrelate is the current focus of Follica’s mission. In the future, Follica is planning on production of several trademarked products, which are currently undergoing human testing in Asia. A surprising result of this cellular research being done worldwide includes the discovery that loss of hair in the ear, possibly related to some forms of baldness, is connected to hearing loss. Growing hair stem cells in cochlea material could lead to hair regeneration and reversal of baldness.
- Follica and Hair Regenerative Biological Techniques
- Stem Cell Technique to Clone Hair May Help Hair Loss Sufferers
- Update on Follica
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- Wnt Signaling May End Grey Hair & Baldness