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Follica Co-Founder and Team Find New Clues About Male Baldness

Xconomy Boston — 

Hold on to your toupees. Scientists have spotted a trend in scalp samples from men with pattern baldness that could lead to a new way to treat hair-loss. The discovery hits close to home for Follica, a startup focused on hair-loss treatments, whose scientific co-founder was one of the main researchers behind the new findings.

The new research found that men with pattern baldness have plenty of hair follicle stem cells in their scalps. This might mean that the stem cells, important to hair follicle development, need to be activated in some way to treat baldness. George Cotsarelis, a dermatologist from the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of Follica, co-authored a paper on the research released today from the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Follica itself did not participate in the research.

Follica CEO William Ju says that the findings in the paper are in line with the rationale for the company’s experimental device and drug treatment for baldness. The mostly virtual biotech firm, which was hatched and incubated at PureTech Ventures in Boston, has been developing a treatment for pattern baldness that stimulates the re-growth of hair follicles by harnessing a natural wound-healing response.

“Our hypothesis has always been that we could harness adult stem cells to grow new hair follicles,” Ju says. “I think what this recent paper shows is that the stem cells are indeed present.”

Cotsarelis agrees. He says that the findings of the research make a treatment to re-grow hair follicles even more plausible than before. Follica is trying to regenerate hair follicles anew, he says, and he and his colleagues show in the study that the hair follicle stem cells are already present in the scalp.

“It made us realize that male pattern baldness is probably not a stem cell problem as far as numbers go, but that it’s more or a problem of activation of the stem cells,” Cotsarelis says.

In fact, the study’s human scalp samples—collected from men with pattern baldness who were undergoing hair transplantations—lacked progenitor cells that help grow new shafts of hair. Those progenitor cells develop from stem cells. So some of the answers about the causes of male baldness might lie in understanding why the stem cells present in guys’ hair-deprived scalps don’t advance to the progenitor stage. The study found no significant difference in the amount of stem cells between scalp samples from haired and balding regions from the same people. Cotsarelis says that further research is needed to understand why this is.

An overseas human clinical study of Follica’s drug-device combo treatment for baldness is under way, Ju says. He declined to share key specifics of the ongoing study, such as where exactly it is taking place, yet he did say that the firm eventually plans to pursue approval of the treatment in the U.S.

“I will say that the trial is being done in a very quality fashion outside the United States,” Ju says. “They are being done under the same standards as one would see in the United States under FDA [oversight].”

Unfortunately, Ju wouldn’t provide a timeline for when a clinical trial of the firm’s treatment might open to those seeking to remedy their baldness in the U.S. But based on the avalanche of comments we typically get on our stories about the startup, it probably won’t have any trouble finding participants when and if it launches a study in this country.

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  • julian

    Guys, I think you´ve not read things right. Follica has stated a long time ago that their medicine was an already in the market – off course they didn´t tell which one it was – and that this would make things a lot easier when the moment to seek FDA approval arrived. So maybe this time is coming now. So, c´mon. It´s awesome news!! cause if it is, things will go really fast!! Hope to see some news on their webpage cause there is nothing about that there yet.

  • A

    Isnt Lithium an anti depressent medication, how ironic, people take lithium because they get depressed about hairloss and when applied to there head it grows it all back lol.

  • lurker

    Can someone explain to me why propecia and rogaine were mentioned with Follica? I thought Follica was going with a topical treatment… as we know, propecia is not topical… and I for one, can’t take it…

    Shooter or someone… help please?

  • Ryan

    I’m not going to jump to any conclusions about what Follica are up to any more, they are always one step ahead anyway. Hopefully there will be more news from them soon, Ryan McBride did mention more to come on his twitter when he mentioned this story so maybe they’re close to releasing a little more information. Sometimes it’s the simplest solutions that are the best.

    I haven’t got time to read the new patent at the moment, are they still planning on using it for permanent hair removal as well?

  • Caddillac

    I apologize for my earlier pessimistic comments. It is just for so long we have been told curing hair loss is such a difficult process. Now to hear that one of my/our big hopes, treatment plan is just using dermabration and a cream.

    I truly have no idea where follica is at this point. sometimes I think they are so secretive because they may be so close and other times I fear they just are having setbacks or have realized their methods arent yielding results.

    Do we have even a soft release date timeframe for follica? or is even that unknown?

  • Shooter

    To be fair caddillac, we (or at least most of us) always knew that Follica’s process involved dermabrasion and a topical cream. That was the only piece of information the company gave way back in 2007 when Cotsarelis’s discovery broke into the news.

  • Herzog

    Yes, Follica has always been clear about this. Dermabrasion followed by a topical.

    They also said years ago that they would be using compounds already approved by the FDA.

    Still, time will tell. Just because they filed a patent doesn’t mean they’re ready to move. It could be a year before more news. I doubt it, but we’ll see.

    I’m just happy to know they’re busy over there.

  • froggy


    Dr Washenik talked about aderans and hair cloning in the Carrousel du Louvre at the international congress reseach against hairloss on 20th march 2011.

    This congress was quickly presented by french tv because of the earthquake and because of military operations in Lybia.

    There was a short video of Dr Washenik and he seems very very very confident despite the fact that he just explained what we all know about Aderans. But I personnaly had the feeling that he wasn’t travelling to Paris for nothing (big news, finding money, finding partners in Europe?).
    I saw a video where Washenik was talking live on web cam with french doctors and french scientists. So I can tell you that he is personnaly in touch with french doctors and with french scientists. Is he preparing a launch in Europe using France as headquarter after a the US launch. Paris is the most accessible town in Europe for many european people because of its geographic position, because of high speed trains and because of one of the biggest airport in the world with direct link to all the biggest european cities. This is why Disney build Disneyland in Paris rather than in spain despite cold weather in winter.

    Also I found this blog: http://blog.norgil.com/
    The problem is that I don’t know if this blog is serious and the article was written before the conference. So…
    But according to this blog Dr Washenik intended to explain this technique in depth and it seems that it is near to be commercialised (but when?).

    Dr Washenik had 30 minutes to talk about Aderans (very short for big news) but it seems that he was the host of the whole conference (because he presented the whole conference).

    So wait and see the next days. But as Dr Washenik doesn’t talk a lot I think that it would be interesting to follow this.

    Again it is a personnal feeling but when I saw this video of Dr Washenik I had a very good feeling and the mood of the video is that it is very serious and that the progress are real.

    Sorry for my bad english.

  • hairquest

    Froggy, could you post the link of the video,please.

  • julian

    Froggy, your english is pretty good and the news you´re giving us are still better!! Hey, things are happening, finally!!! We´re almost there people!!! Be confident and optimistic!!!

  • froggy


    Like I said it was a very short video on a small french TV show / channel.
    But I found another video(see at 20’22”) still from a small TV show.
    1) the french doctor is using FUE at the moment (first part of the report)
    2) this french doctor is the one who organised the congress in Paris and he is in touch with Dr Washenik.
    In the first video that i saw the french doctor called dr Washenik. I saw the first video last week and the congress took place march 21th.

    Those videos were made BEFORE THE CONGRESS (like a teaser).
    Basicaly he said the same thing than in the video in tokyo (aderans web site):Aderans will take some hairs in the back multiply some cells that will grow new hairs once injected.

    Like I said dr Washenik doesn’t talk very often and every news are important from such an important company in our hope.
    If there is no big news at the congress I think that there are some interesting signs
    1) Dr Washenik is starting to talk and traveling (Tokyo, Paris etc.)
    2) He is starting to be in touch with foreign doctors.
    3) The study is running for several months and not seems to reduce.
    4) Dr Washenik is starting to talk about the results and is more an more precise about the procedure.

    The congress is not the first subject on our media:
    1) earthquake in Japan
    2) military operations in Lybia where we have send one nuclear aircraft carrier and a lot of jetfighters to protect lybian people with US and UK etc.
    3) we are called to elect some of our local politicians.
    So our media are focused on those important things and they don’t have enough time to talk about hairloss at this time.

    I just post this to inform you and to say stay tuned about this (aderans web site etc.)

  • froggy

    Note that in another video on the blog mentionned on my first post the doctor who organised the congress and who is in touch with dr Washenik in the TV show seems to be very interested about Aderans method.
    At the moment he is using FUE so one of the best method available right now (I guess).
    And I think that he wants to be part of it and be the first doctor in France (maybe in Europe) to use the Aderans method.
    My opinion is that he think that FUE will be a thing of the past and he is preparing himself and his clinic.
    Because once the method available FUE is finish.
    Maybe things are moving. BUT MAYBE.

    I am trying to be as clear as possible. I hope that my posts are easy to read. Sorry I am not english native language.

  • Z79
  • Z79

    Froggy, thank you for your information!
    Since you live in France could you possibly tell me if a cream called Lithioderm is available in France over the counter or if it is a prescription drug? If you (or anyone else for that matter) could direct me to a online shop which sells it I would be even more grateful. I cant seem to find it anywhere. Thank you!

  • froggy

    I forgot to tell you to choose “vendredi 18″ at the bottom of the black frame.
    See at (20’22”)

    I’ve never heard about this cream.
    But you need to know that in France the only legal way to have real drugs is from what we call “pharmacie”.
    The “pharmaciens” are doctors specialised in delivery drugs ordered by others doctors.
    The only drugs they are allowed to delivrer without what we call “prescription” (the order delivered by another doctor) are the drugs without big efficacity for exemple minoxidil with a very low dosage 2/3%.
    If you want real drugs (so with potential side effects, let’s say finasterid)you need a prescription from another french doctor. Because you need to be followed (there are side effects and interaction with hormonal system).
    And the delivery of “real drugs” by internet is illegal because the pharmacien have to verify the “prescription”. He verify that you don’t already have a treatment that can be dangerous if taken with the new drug…
    Most of the time you also need an electronic card delivered by our health care system to get the drug from the pharmacien (so that you proof your id and you don’t have to pay or a small part of the amount for comfort drugs).
    So if Lithioderm is a real and powerful drug don’t look in France to get it without being personnaly in France to have an prescription by a doctor.

    Drug delivery is highly controled by our health care authorities.
    I guess it is the same thing in the USA.

  • hairquest

    Merci Froggy!

  • Z79

    Thanks for your reply Froggy!

  • Happy1

    I would exercise caution.
    Lithium is known to cause hair loss.
    If Follica has indeed used it in their testing, it must have employed some specific variant of the substance and the dosage of such. I’m not so sure if getting in a hot hurry after reading a press release to purchase lithium cream over the counter is the best idea.

  • Artista

    Froggy,,thank you for the information. Also,your English is very good my friend..no worries.
    To ‘A’ your comment~”…how ironic, people take lithium because they get depressed about hair loss and when applied to there head it grows it all back lol.” Great humorous observation. We are living in great and interesting times, medically speaking.

  • Artista

    I just watched that video. It is good to see that Dr Washenik is in communication and involved with Dr.s around the globe. By the way ,I was impressed with the French Patient, Gabriel Rubens’FUE-HTs . His doctor did a great job.

  • dave slattery

    Hi, I’m also very excited about this new info. I’ve had 5 hair transplants and my hair isn’t real good. One thing that has helped is j a alternatives in ny. they have something called “interlinx”. they have hair that looks just like my hair, and tie it to the bases of my transplants. it makes my hair much fuller. ALthough it’s expensive, and you have to go every 3-4 weeks to have more hair tied in.

  • Artista

    5 Hts dave slattery? What stage of hair loss have you suffered and at what thickness of hair?

  • Johnny Macenroe

    from what i can see here gentlemen histogen is going to be worth a fortune…they look to be moving in the right direction at a steady pace…

  • igor

    how so. they have not even begun phase 1 trials yet my friends. 10 years at least away from us getting histogen oil

  • julian

    Hey igor, why being so pessimistic? why this fixation with the numbers 5 and 10? why not 3, 2 or 4, or 6, why not 6 months or 8 or 11 or 13? who knows? I think we do have plenty of reasons for being optimistic now. It may not help but being pessimistic won´t either.

  • artista

    Julian,,Time has proven that there will always be pessimism especially related to this topic. I’m not sure that ‘Igor’ has been keeping himself up to date with the information here. No matter..those of us that have been~ know better. Also, i have a strong feeling that Mr ‘Dave Slattery’ is here only to SPAM.

  • dave slattery

    my friend, you need to consider “interlinx” and not treat me as a sales rep. my goal is to help you and others look and feel their best. interlinx has a rapidly growing customer base and stands to overtake hair pieces for many partial loss hair sufferers.

  • Lurker

    I thought Histogen was looking at a 2013 release in Asia? Has something changed?

  • VictimofDHT

    Hi all. Found this site a few weeks back. I am in a very desperate situation. Reading about Histogen kind of gave me some hope especially when I read that they might have something by 2013. But then some people come and say it won’t be in less than 10 years from now. This is wreaking havoc on my nerves. Is there any indication that a release date will be sometime in ’13 ? This has been a roller coaster.

  • Artista

    Victim’ Hang in there buddy. You are not alone in this. There is plenty of empathy here. Nothing has been confirmed as to any release dates,BUT, what we have been learning these past few months have been VERY VERY promising. Histogen will be in Asia(less restrictions) this year to continue their testing research. It seems that the pace has started to pick up with the ‘BigFour’ contenders. Stick around.its an exciting waiting game.

  • VictimofDHT

    Thanks Artista. I know I’m not the only one anxiously waiting for a treatment but my case isn’t the average case (of suffering). I know this probably isn’t the place to discuss this but I’m just going through hell right now and I’m losing my mind. My only remaining hope is that one of these companies come up with something hopefully soon. I was literally counting the days until 2013 but looks like nothing’s for sure.

  • rev

    We’ve all gone through hell my friend, but I promise you it will get better. Aderans and Histogen keep floating dates between 2013 and 2015. Heck, even Follica might pull-through for us as well.

    I realize that it sucks to be bald or balding, but you’re not alone. Look around you next time you’re out; we’re everywhere.

  • Artista

    Rev is right. It will get better. Hopefully sooner than expected. When i look around and I see a bald or balding man I always say to myself~~~~~~~”I feel your pain brother”
    Remember how shocking it was to see what had happened to Peter Frampton’s mane?

  • julian

    Dave, I think nobody here wants a wig Ok?! so don´t push it, please! let´s wait and see what happens, and it´s not impossible that it happens before 2013 mates!! good news are coming. We´re really close to getting rid of baldness, believe it!!!

  • Rafael

    Hi, guys. From years 2000 – 2010 many expected some kind of “cure” or better solutions than propecia and rogaine. But ten years passed and nothing happened. Now we are here again with new hopes (histogen, aderans, hair clonning, acell etc). Well, my question is: comparing to the hopes of last decade, are things different now? I mean, what are the chances of putting our hands on Histogen, for example, in the next 3-5 years? Aren´t we again just recreating the hope atmosphere and fooling ourselves? Please, undesrtant that i´d sell my house to to get anything that could reverse my hair loss (20 years living this hell), but are there really cientific evidences to believe that all the talk will not turn into more frustration? Sorry for the bad english.

  • Artista

    Rafael the short answer to your question is–
    Y E S

  • Rafael

    YES for which of them? Histogen? Before 2015? What about the Singapure tests, what are the recent news? The good thing is that these guys went to Asia to make things faster, but it´s been 6 weeks since Dr. Craig Z. talked about Histogen at The Bald Truth.

  • Artista

    Singapore is happening in the Fall months of this year. Based on the info we have discussed here, Histogen seems to be the leader of the ‘Big Four’ BUT, that is not an absolute. At this point anything can happen. These companies I feel are keeping their cards close to the chest. only showing info they will allow. They are all at the cusp of something unique and potentially PROFITABLE. Be resilient my friend.

  • Rafael

    Thanks for the answer, Artista. I have lived really bad days because of hair loss and also for all the frustration waitting for some solution to help us. And every year hairs get thinner and thinner, making the hairs from 1 HT on the temples become visible. This nightmare never ends.

  • Zarko

    Hey guys.

    What about those pictures from Histogen?
    They said it would be available in a month.
    So, where are they? I am not sure if 30 days are passed or not.
    Keep faith up guys.

  • Shooter

    Zarko, remember that Dr. Z promised pictures – NOT Histogen. He does not work for the company, he is just an advisor who oversees clinical studies. Just because he made a commitment does not mean that Histogen has to honor it.

    That being said, we should give them some time to gather the results and prepare them for the general public. It has been more than 30 days, btw, so hopefully the waiting will end soon.

    (On another note: Is anyone else nervous that the exploratory case studies won’t yield the same results as the initial trial?)

  • KKwilliams

    ” (On another note: Is anyone else nervous that the exploratory case studies won’t yield the same results as the initial trial?)”

    Lots of people have pointed out that the initial studies results that kept being quoted were probably of the best patient and did not really give a “real” picture of the results.

    lots of people keep forgetting it wasnt even a phase 1 set of trials. I believe the upcoming phase 1/2 trails beginning in the spring(end of may I hear)results will, if published as openly as histogen has been so far will REALLY let us see how far along we actually are.

    It will show much more than a handful of initial trials patients and give us a much more comprehensive look at what results the average guy could get from this treatment.

    so much of the day to day ‘heartbreak/excited were cured’ roller-coaster that happens on here is all in our heads and is set off by the smallest press release or patent application.

    I think after phase 1/2 trials of hsc that will change as we will know if histogen is dead or has improved its results and plans to try phase 3.

    any ideas when the phase 2 results could be released? 1 year? less? Im assuming it cant be super long if they are aiming for 2013 release.

    I was a bit all over the place with that post lol )

  • Shooter

    I obviously have no idea when Histogen is planning to receive Phase 1/2 results, but if they follow the same protocol as their initial study, they should publish some pictures after 3, 6 and 12 months.

    I personally think that the exploratory cases that *should* be published soon, will provide a good indication of what Phase 1/2 will yield because they are doing 50 injections (not just 1 or 2).

    Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  • VictimofDHT

    Thank you guys. Like I said I understand I’m not the only one in this but in my situation the pain and suffering is x a trillion. I’ve gone through 5 transplants over the past 12 years and spent over $21,000 -not counting interest- and it’s all for nothing. I’m now losing most of transplanted hairs once again and when I went to see the doctor about a month ago to see if there was an explanation I was told I seem to have a rare condition that causes the transplanted hairs to eventually die !! I was told only a handful of people seem to have it and I seem to be one of the “lucky” ones ! I feel I could die from anger and sadness. I literally feel pain in my heart. That’s why I’m so anxious and desperate for some good news. The pain is just unbearable. I hope they don’t disappoint us once again or say the same thing they’ve been saying for the past 20 years – in the next 10 years….. I don’t know what I’d do.
    That’s my situation.

  • Rafael


    You remembered us that the initial studies results that kept being quoted were probably of their best patient. I suppose it´s a negative point for the next trials, am i right?

    What are the implications of it?


  • Lowlow

    Man i’m sorry to hear of your situation. Five hair transplants is some torture, physical and psychological. That is very tough going on you. Try and hang in there as best you can. I agree that there will be some form of a cure in the near future and that it will be tweaked and improved on as time goes by. The problem is that the wheel seems to be turning so so bloody slowly and that the FDA is a beuracratic nightmare when the finish line might eventually be on the horizon. Histogen’s recent silence concerns me, although it still is everyone’s big hope and would be the ideal choice of method. Ziering (“Doc Z” as he signed himself)was very active and informative on another forum even replying to regular poster’s queries and giving a very optimistic interview on air but he has been very quiet as of late having promised to show overdue exploratory results of HSC. I hope my concerns are misplaced and that we’ll hear from him any day now. I do not know what the hell to make of Follica to be honest. I thought that was the real dark horse in the race for me and that Costarelis and the company were just playing their cards very close to their chest, especially with FDA clearance out of the equation. Who knows. To me there just isn’t enough competition to get over the finish line first with an effective treatment. Who would have thought growing bloody hair could be so complicated in 2011 with all of our medical advancements.

  • tk

    Just wondering about people here… Who will be flying to Asia to get HSC done if it’s out in 2013? I will certainly be going there. Maybe we could rent a flat somewhere and hang out in Singapore until we grow our hair back.
    I’m hopeful, guys. HSC looks more than legit. And the hair it will create will be far more realistic than any HT. It’s gonna be like comparing a 3D Plasma HDTV to a black and white 14″ CRT.

    And remember it’s Friday! Someday we can have our hair back and we gonna party and have fun fun fun fun fun!

  • Herzog

    I’ll be the first in line to fly to Singapore. Definitely.

  • FullHead

    As an outsider to this site i read/see alot of pain being expressed.


    Some of the posters on here have to look at things differently, if you dont, you wont be alive to see the promise land.

    Let me ask you this, would you rather be healthy/confident/positive attiude NOW and one day going forward grow new hair or would you want to be low self esteem/miserable/no confidence and then get hair?

    Do things right and in the right order. If you think having hair one day will change y our life i belive your mistaken, you need the goods underneath the hair to have the complete package to present to the world.

    One day you will be able to grow new hair, in the mean time keep movin on and dont stop and keep your godam head high!!

  • Shooter

    Fullhead, that’s great advice.

    tk, HAHAHAHAHAHA! I hate that stupid song!