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"Gagome kelp fucoidan" had a hair growth effect.

Ask a researcher TAKARA Bio “Gagome kelp fucoidan”

Gagome kelp fucoidan is shown to be physiologically active. The substance has effects of promoting tissue regeneration and activating immunity

In Japan, some studies have revealed that Japanese people had already been eating kelp in the Jomon period. Kelp has a long history as edible seaweed. Gagome kelp on which TAKARA Bio Inc. has been conducting research among different types of kelps grows in a limited area and the yield of kelp is very low. Its stickiness overcomes that of the other types of kelps. As a result of many years of research, the company has found that gagome kelp fucoidan contains high-molecular “F-fucoidan”, acidic polysaccharide, which is a main ingredient of the kelp. The fucoidan has a function of proliferating hair matrix cells by stimulating human dermal papilla cells.

Commercialization of hair growth agent “TaKaRa Seaweed Essence”

Since TAKARA Bio Inc. began as the biomedical business unit of Takara Shuzo Co., Ltd. (now Takara Holdings Inc.), the company has strived to advance business related to genes and biotechnology consistently. Among their business areas, Aderans focuses most on the functional material, “TaKaRa Seaweed Essence”. “TaKaRa Seaweed Essence” contains gagome kelp fucoidan extracted from scarce and precious gagome kelp grown in Hokkaido. It is used as a raw material of cosmetics or quasi-drugs and characterized by its stickiness and being absorbed well in skin.

TAKARA Bio Inc. acquired a patent for the fucoidan as an ingredient for hair growth product in 2006. In this interview, Hiroshi Ohnogi, Chief Researcher of Biotechnology Research Laboratory explained gagome kelp fucoidan and mentioned that Suzu Taguchi was one of inventors for the patent.

Gagome kelp grows near the shores of Hakodate in Hokkaido only. Gagome kelp, edible seaweed, belongs to Phaeophyceae/ Kjellmaniella gyrate and is used for “Matsumaezuke (pickled kombu and dried squid with soy sauce). It is characterized by its stickiness compared with ordinary dried kelp for making soup stocks.
An effect which only gagome kelp fucoidan has among a lot of fucoidan

What kind of kelp is gagome kelp?

Suzu Deguchi:It is a rare type of kelp that grows near the shores of Hakodate
in Hokkaido. We started research on the kelp thinking that eating it might be useful for health. In particular, its stickiness is a unique feature that the other kelp does not have. Then, we also thought whether it could be used for an ingredient of cosmetics designed to be applied to skin directly and whether it could be used as a hair growth agent as kelp had been believed to be beneficial for hair at the same time as research of kelp as a food. We began to pay attention to fucoidan as we proceeded with the research. It is polysaccharide which kelp, etc. contain and is a slimy ingredient unique to seaweeds.
First, TAKARA Bio analyzed the structure of fucoidan and found that it has three types of fucoidan: “F-fucoidan”, “U-fucoidan” and “G-fucoidan” and published the research result in 1995. It was year of 2000 when we published that especially, “F-fucoidan” had a hair growth effect.

What features does F-fucoidan” have?

Suzu Deguchi:Fucoidan has several types, fucoidan from Tongan mozuku (seaweed of the family Spermatochnaceae) and fucoidan from Okinawa mozuku in addition to gagome kelp fucoidan. When compared, their effects vary (Figure 1). We have found that gagome kelp fucoidan has overwhelmingly strong effects on cells. We analyzed the structure of Okinawa mozuku fucoidan which was different in the composition of polysaccharide and the number of sulfate groups from gagome kelp fucoidan.

Mice hairs were collected by each hair follicle and cultivated together with fucoidan derived from different seaweeds. As a result, Hair follicle cell growth was promoted and the hair got longer. This effect was the highest in gagome kelp fucoidan compared with the other fucoidan derived from different seaweeds.

So, I can say that it is not just a feature of fucoidan but a feature of gagome kelp fucoidan, can’t I?

Suzu Deguchi:That’s right. We performed an experiment using the same amount of fucoidan derived from a variety of seaweed and obtained a result showing that each fucoidan has a different effect. It shows that it is a matter of quality, not a matter Promotes growth factor production and stimulates proliferation of dermal papilla cells of volume. (*gagome kelp fucoidan=hereinafter referred to as “fucoidan”)

Promotes growth factor production and stimulates proliferation of dermal papilla cells

What basic research on hair growth has been conducted?

Hiroshi Ohnogi:Regarding hair growth, we examined how much speed varied by applying fucoidan on the mice whose hair was shaved off (Figure 2).
Also, we plucked mice whiskers and measured how fast hair grew. Recently, we made a cell experiment using dermal papilla cells. It is dermal papilla cells situated in the lowest part of hair root that controls the proliferation of hair matrix cells (figure 3).
A protein (growth factor) called as FGF-7 produced from the dermal papilla cell is shown to promote the proliferation of hair matrix cells.

Dorsal hairs on mice were shaved off and gagome kelp fucoidan was applied on them. As a result, hair growth was observed at an early stage.


Structure of hair root. Dermal papilla cells control the proliferation of hair matrix cells. FGF-7 proteins secreted from dermal papilla cells promote the proliferation of hair matrix cells.

Suzu Deguchi:If FGF-7 levels are elevated, a growth phase may be prolonged and a resting phase may be transferred to the growth phase quickly in a hair cycle consisting of a growth phase lasting 2 to 6 years, a transitional phase (2 to 3 weeks) and a resting phase (3 to 4 months) (*refer to Figure on page 5), leading to hair growth. This is what we thought at that time. Then, we performed an experiment in which fucoidan was added to dermal papilla cells in a petri dish for cultivation. This is an experiment to examine the level of FGF-7 protein generated during a certain period of cultivation. The level of FGF-7 protein in dermal papilla cells in which fucoidan was not added was zero. When fucoidan 100 μg per 1ml was added, the FGF-7 protein level increased (Figure 4).


“TaKaRa Seaweed Essence” containing gagome kelp fucoidan was applied to dermal papilla cells derived from healthy adult hairs and was cultivated. As a result, the level of FGF-7 production was increased.

Hiroshi Ohnogi:The level increased around fourfold or fivefold. Regarding the order, first, the gene expression levels are increased and then the protein is generated by copying the gene.

Suzu Deguchi:There is a time difference in the increase of gene expression levels and the level of protein. First, gene expression levels are increased 16 hours later and then the level of protein is increased 96 hours later.

Hiroshi Ohnogi:These data show fucoidan’s effects on dermal papilla cells. Fucoidan activates not only dermal papilla cells but also neurons or hepatic cells. However, its detail mechanisms remain unknown.

Effects of promoting regeneration of tissues including liver, skin and hair

Suzu Deguchi:A protein which promotes hepatic cell growth is called as hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Recently, it has been clarified that HGF is a regenerating factor for various tissues or organs including kidney, lung, vessels and skin as well as liver.
I mentioned previously that fucoidan is associated with the increased FGF-7 protein level secreted from dermal papilla cells. In addition, TAKARA Bio has revealed that fucoidan has also an effect to promote HGF production.

Hiroshi Ohnogi:The liver is the only internal organ that can regenerate itself. If a half of the liver is removed, the remaining parts can regenerate itself into a whole liver by releasing a growth factor called as HFG. This HGF was found in liver, and now it is known to be released from cells around hair or skin cells as well.
In 1998, Juntendo University published data on HGF’s effects on hair growth by changing hair cycles in a medical journal specializing in dermatology. This study result gave us a clue about HGF’s effects on skin or hair. Then, we started the research on gagome kelp fucoidan, thinking that the fucoidan may have the similar effect.

I believe that medical conditions and hair conditions are closely related to each other. So, if you are stressed out, hair will be influenced clearly. I think it holds true for liver as well. If fucoidan can maintain or facilitate better medical conditions indirectly, it would be effective for hair, wouldn’t it?

Hiroshi Ohnogi:We have developed a nutritional supplement which aims at facilitating hair growth from the inside of body with Aderans. From the outside of body, fucoidan is also used in hair growth agent or shampoo.

Effects of activating immunity by stimulating immunological organs including intestinal tract

Where is research of gagome kelp fucoidan going?

Suzu Deguchi:I think there are a lot of subjects to be researched. One is about an effect to make facial skin more beautiful, which is an extension of moisturizing effect. We made an experiment in which fucoidan was applied on the face of internal volunteers to check facial skin conditions.

Hiroshi Ohnogi:What I am interested in other than hair growth is about immunity. In around 1990, there was a growing interest in functional food candidates, that is, a food which contributes to better health. Under such circumstances, seaweeds or mushrooms attracted interest as a food which might prevent cancer. When given such food to animals in which tumor cells were implanted in animal study, the study results showed that the tumor size did not increase. When we proceeded with the study to determine why this occurred, we began to learn that such food was associated with immune activation.
It is the small intestine that is the very place in which the immunity is activated. An intestinal tract is an immunological organ that delivers a message when enemies come “Enemies come! Be prepared!” as well as absorbing nutrition.
Then, we are now conducting a research to investigate whether gagome kelp fucoidan may increase immunity (Figure 5).

We cannot keep our eyes off research on gagome kelp fucoidan which activates various cells. I expect that you will pursue research on hair growth with Aderans. We look forward to further research results.

Mice in which tumor cells were transplanted were fed a diet containing 0.5% gagome kelp fucoidan for 4 weeks and then NK activity of spleen cells in mice was measured. As a result, NK activity was reduced in mice in which tumor cells were transplanted, while the NK activity was elevated in mice by ingesting fucoidan (graph A). Tumor cell proliferation was also suppressed by ingestion of gagome kelp fucoidan (graph B).

Interviewer/writer: Akiyoshi Sato Photographer: Kuninobu Akutsu Data provided by TAKARA Bio Inc.

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