Shiseido Company, a Japanese corporation with over a century of experience in the beauty industry, recently filed two patents in the United States related to hair loss treatment. More than a cosmetics company, Shiseido has invested in innovation in a number of scientific areas, including raw material development, dermatological research, and brain science research. Shiseido has even focused on hair regeneration.1 In fact, we recently reported on an upcoming clinical trial they are about to begin: Shiseido RCH-01 Asia.
The two patents that Shiseido applied for are titled “Method for Regenerating Hair Follicles Using CD36-Expressing Dermal Sheath Cells”2 and “Cell Mass Capable of Serving as a Primitive Organ-Like Structure Comprised of a Plurality of Cell Types of Somatic Origin.”3 These patents are the latest in a long list of Shiseido hair regeneration-related patents that include regenerating sheath cell follicle composition4, a hair growth cell activator5, a hair follicle reconstitution system6, a hair growth stimulant7, a hair preserving tonic8, a method for hair growth that involves a cell-adhesion factor9, and a method for preparing transplant of hair papilla cells110. According to their patent history, for nearly seventeen years, Shiseido has been investigating the means to reverse hair loss and preserve existing hair.
How do the new patents advance hair loss treatment research? Let’s break this down one patent at a time. First – the primitive organ-like structure of somatic cells. A somatic cell is any type of cell from the body that has been specialized to perform a function and is not an ovum, sperm, or stem cell. The patent describes a process to culture a cell mass containing two types of somatic cells: keratinocytes and hair papilla cells. The scientific innovation is in the use of a Wnt signal activator (mediating cell proliferation by controlling the cell cycle) and non-plate contact culturing (growing cells on a surface other than the bottom of a Petri dish).
The inventors point out that by using this method, a “cell mass useful for, for example, hair follicle transplant… can be efficiently and artificially produced.”3 Moreover, the cell mass could be used to evaluate hair growth drugs. The inventors detail their efforts to prove their claim. The cell staining figures included with their text indicate that their described method is plausible; however, the inventors reported producing only droplets of cultured cells.
Secondly is the hair follicle regeneration method using transplanted dermal sheath cells in an animal model or three-dimensional skin model, such as the primitive organ-like cell mass described above.
The inventors used genomic sequencing to identify genes that were expressed more in dermal sheath cells compared to hair papilla or fibroblasts. Three hundred and four were found. Most of the genes were related to vascular processes, indicating a strong relationship between dermal sheath cells and blood vessels. Interestingly, a previously-known hair growth promotion factor, HGF (hepatocyte growth factor), was correlated with another gene that was highly expressed, CD36 (cluster of differentiation 36).
CD36 has been identified in fatty acid and sugar metabolism, in atherosclerosis, and even in Alzheimer’s disease; yet, there is currently no known relationship between CD36 and hair growth. By using CD36, scientists can identify and sort out hair sheath cells among a sea of other cell types. A dermal sheath-cell-enriched liquid can then be applied to animal skin or a skin-like organ according to current known transplant methods. The inventors provided evidence of CD36 expression and successful dermal sheath cell sorting, but they did not provide results of transplant and regeneration.
Does this mean that they have found a cure for alopecia and hair loss? Not exactly. The purpose of a patent is to protect intellectual property. A patent can only be approved for processes or inventions that are novel, non-obvious, and adequately described. However, a patent does not undergo a rigorous scientific review where it is tested for utility or function. That’s why a cup that delivers an electric shock to a hiccoughing person was accepted as the patent “Device for the Treatment of Hiccups”.11 But, the patents filed by the Shiseido Company are compelling. The evidence contained within their applications points towards scientists invested in finding a treatment and a brighter future for hair regeneration.
1. Shiseido’s Research and Development | Innovation | Shiseido group website. Accessed August 20, 2016.
2. Yoshida Y, Soma T, Fujiwara S. Method for Regenerating Hair Follicles Using CD36-Expressing Dermal Sheath Cells. March 2016.
3. Fujiwara S, Kishimoto J, Soma T. Cell mass capable of serving as a primitive organ-like structure comprised of a plurality of cell types of somatic origin. July 2016.
4. Yoshida Y, Soma T, Fujiwara S. Composition for regenerating follicle which contains cd36-expressing connective tissue sheath cells. April 2012.
5. Hamada C, Tajima M, Nakama Y, Takahashi T. Cell activator. March 2002.
6. Ideta R, Tsunenaga M. Hair follicle-reconstitution system and animal carrying the same. March 2003.
7. Ishino ACOSCLK, Miyazawa KCOSCLK, Fujii SCOSCLK. Hair growth stimulant. May 1994.
8. Uchikawa K, Miyazawa K, Nakanishi J, Ishino A. Hair revitalizing tonic composition. 1992.
9. Yamanishi H, Soma T, Yoshida Y, Ishimatsu Y. Method for promoting hair growth or hair regeneration by maintaining or increasing expression of cell-adhesion factor. December 2012.
10. Kishimoto J, Ehama R, Ideta R, Arai T, Yano K, Soma T. Method of preparing hair papilla cell preparation, composition and method for regenerating hair follicle and animal having regenerated hair follicle. April 2005.
11. Ehlinger PC. Device for the treatment of hiccups. June 2006.
Kevin Rands is the Founder of HairLossTalk.com and President of Online Health Networks, Inc. a Miami based corporation providing consumer health education on the web. He is also the Founder and Principal Writer for DisrupterDaily.com, an online publication on disruption of health and tech sectors.