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Taiwan team finds cure for hair loss from chemo, radiation therapies

2018/09/19 18:49:10

Lin Sung-jan (林頌然, left)

Taipei, Sept. 19 (CNA) A research team at National Taiwan University (NTU) has found a way to prevent the hair loss caused by chemotherapy or radiation therapy suffered by cancer patients, but the remedy is not expected to be commercialized for 10 years.

The team, headed by Lin Sung-jan (林頌然), a professor of biomedical engineering at NTU, made the breakthrough while conducting stem cell research using fluorescent gene targeting under the Ministry of Science and Technology's cross-field research program.

By tracking hair follicle cell movement via gene targeting, the researchers found that after being injured by low-dose radiation, hair follicles did not activate traditional bulge stem cells to repair the damage, Lin said, explaining their findings to reporters Wednesday.

Instead, atypical stem cells at the base of the follicle bulbs were activated, Lin said, noting that the stem cells split into seven layers of different cells within 12 to 36 hours, reviving the damaged hair follicles.

His team also found that with Wnt protein injection, the process of activating such stem cells can be accelerated, so that the hair loss resulting from high-dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be prevented, Lin said.

Wnt is an acronym in the field of genetics that stands for "Wingless/Integrated." Acting as intercellular signals, Wnt proteins regulate the proliferation of cells.

Testing on animals has proved that Wnt protein injections have 70 percent-80 percent efficiency in preventing the "genotoxicity- induced" hair loss suffered by cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy, according to Lin.

Meanwhile, Huang Wen-yen (黃文彥), one of the researchers on Lin's team, cited animal testing results as showing that Wnt protein injections were seen to be effective five days after application, with no apparent side effects, he said.

Lin said that currently, the team is negotiating cooperation with foreign companies in human trials. The remedy "is expected to be able to be commercialized in 10 years at the earliest," the scientist said.

The research, titled "Mobilizing Transit-Amplifying Cell-Derived Ectopic Progenitors Prevents Hair Loss from Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy," has been published in the online version of Cancer Research, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

(By Chu Tze-wei and Elizabeth Hsu)