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Androgenic alopecia can be treated.

There is growing recognition that androgenic alopecia can be treated.

As the mechanism behind alopecia has been elucidated medically, the efficacy of pharmacologic therapy has been increased. A body of evidence on physical therapy for stimulating cells by special narrow-band red LED light irradiation has been increasingly accumulated. Hair-volumizing technique and wigs have tremendously progressed so that QOL of patients with AGA has been increasing. What do clinician specialists think of such medical progress?

The moment I felt confident “hair thinning can be treated”

It was when he studied at University of Wisconsin in the early 1990s that Dr. Sotaro Kurata who runs a clinic specializing in hair and skin in Beppu, Oita was exposed to the front line of rapidly advancing hair research.
“I had thought so far “Autologous hair transplantation may be most effective to treat hair thinning”. In the United States at the times, basic research on pharmacotherapy, another approach for hair growth treatment, already progressed dramatically. It was a big surprise to me. I myself conducted a research on how ingredients like minoxidil was absorbed by hair papilla cells and confirmed that it was highly effective. Drugs containing these ingredients as hair restoration products or hair growth products became commercially available in tandem and they became widely used in the world. I was excited to learn that a new era for treating hair thinning has come”, said Dr. Kurata.
The 1990s was the very era where a new promising light for androgenic alopecia was seen because the mechanisms behind human hair growth, transition al and resting phases, that is, existence of a hair follicle stem cell or the mode of action for androgen was elucidated, leading to the identification of some ingredients acting directly on cells. His conviction that hair thinning can be treated motivated him to establish “Kurata Clinic” in 1999.
Now, you can now purchase a topical agent containing minoxidil (its trade name is “RiUP X5” in Japan) at the pharmacy. Finasteride (tradename: Propecia) is an oral medication prescribed by a physician and Japan boasts the top sales of the product.
It is true that the effect of drug varies from person to person.
However, it is not much expected that a patient with severe hair loss can restore to the former condition when he was in his teens. Also, as it takes a certain time to complete the hair cycle, hair will not grow soon after using the drug. Moreover, as expectation for therapeutic effects or images for hair appearance vary among different individuals, satisfaction for effects in patients taking a drug orally or whom a drug is applied has variations.
“A physician or a pharmacist needs to explain these matters sufficiently and proceed with treatment so that a patient can fully understand and satisfy the treatment said Dr. Kurata.

Treatment using red LED light or hair transplantation with mass cell cultivation attracts expectations

Other physical therapy or therapeutic approaches using insight from regenerative medicine have progressed as if following pharmacologic therapy. It is clear that now there are several therapeutic options. One of therapies to which Dr. Kurata pays attention is special red LED light irradiation which promotes hair growth.
“Irradiating red LED light on dermal papilla cells induces several cellular growth factors which contribute to activation of hair matrix cells. LED light has already been commonly used and is safer than laser treatment. Its adverse effects have not so far been reported. It does not interfere with the other therapy. Although it is not that LED light irradiation can do everything, its effects will be enhanced by applying or taking a drug in combination” Dr. Kurata expressed his expectations.
Also, Dr. Kurata pays attention to progress in regenerative medicine of hair follicles. That is, cultivating autologous hair follicle cells to proliferate and transplanting them in the affected site.
“The current hair transplantation is conducted by transplanting hair whose cycle is active to the site of hair whose cycle is inactive. It is basically same as organ transplant. However, as only one follicle can be created from one follicle, the hair-volumizing effect is limited. However, if mass cell cultivation becomes possible, its therapeutic effect will be increased dramatically. I hear that mass cultivation has already been successful in animal study but in human. Its application in human is still in a research stage. I expect that it will be materialized in the near future” Dr. Kurada said.

The combination use with wigs or hairvolumizing technique has improved psychological satisfaction

In addition, Dr.Kurata pointed out the possibility that further progress in molecular biology research may lead to discovery of a novel hair growth factor which will be used as a drug component. He also expects that some of folk remedies, something like “taking this is good for health” may be possibly used as a novel therapy if its scientific evidence is accumulated. A new era is coming when modern medical benefit is about to shine down on the human head. In that case, what will be the fate of wigs which already existed at the time of ancient Egypt?
Will wigs be forgotten as a relic from the past?
“I do not think so. Wigs are something to wear without any effect on the body. It is easy to get and wear. Moreover, they are fascinating as a fashion item. As there is no medical therapy which can completely satisfy every patient, I think that patient needs for using a medical treatment and a wig in combination will not be diminished” Dr. Kurata said.
It is too good to miss progress in hair-volumizing technique or manufacturing technology of wigs in recent years. Research on artificial hair with cuticles which create an illusion of real ones has progressed. I myself am surprised to see it is almost the same as human natural hair.
“The number of people who take care of their hair more seriously as a part of anti-aging has been increasing. It is an era where a patient who has given up can gain a high level of satisfaction by selecting any from various therapeutic options or by using them in combination with a wig. It is the worst thing for you to worry about alone. You should consult a specialist such as a physician, pharmacist or hair adviser without hesitation. Let’s find the best combination for yourself and overcome hair thinning” Said Dr. Kurata.

Interviewer/writer: Takaki Hiroshige Photographer: Kuninobu Akutsu

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