COL17A1, Foxc1, Brotzu: Weekly Thoughts 2/8/16

Hello everybody, nice to be back here with you again. There seems to have been a surge of hair growth related news as of late which makes it a great time to do some reporting. Without further ado, here are your Weekly Thoughts.

COL17A1 and Hair Follicle Aging

A major key to understanding the process of hair follicle miniaturization has been discovered and could lead to new therapies aimed at keeping healthy hair follicles cycling. Emi Nishimura and Hiroyuki Matsumura headed the team of researchers at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan to complete this study. The findings were released in an article for Science magazine earlier this month. The article explains that Nishimura et al. examined hair follicle stem-cell growth cycles in mice which lead them to notice a depletion of a protein, Collagen 17A1, in older mice/follicles. The lack of COL17A1 in older hair follicles is caused by age related DNA damage. When there is a lack of COL17A1 present, the hair follicle stem cells turn into skin-producing cells also known as keratinocytes. Thus, when the hair follicle stem cells turn into skin instead of turning into cells that feed hair follicles, the hair follicles of the scalp become smaller. And there you have it.

So, how is this useful? The main idea here is that age related DNA damage leads to a lack of COL17A1. This would lead me to believe there are three useful avenues to pursue for actualizing this research into a treatment. 1) Prevent DNA from being damaged. 2) Add a supply of COL17A1 to the scalp. 3) Do both. I was surprised to read that Collagen 17A1 is a protein. This is interesting because proteins can easily be synthesized (created in a lab). I would assume that the idea of administering COL17A1 to the scalp through injection or topically has already been pondered by the researchers.

Foxc1 also in the Mix

The COL17A1 news was recently coupled with the release of research done by Rui Yi and colleagues at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Yi, a biologist at UCB, found that a transcription factor known as Foxc1 also plays a role in the hair follicle growth cycle. Through research done on mice, Yi and colleagues found that active hair follicle stem cells express Foxc1 to pause their growth cycle and go into a dormant stage. When the team bread mice with the Foxc1 removed from the mice biology, the hair follicle stem cells did not go into a dormant state and kept growing. Yi noted that by interfering with Foxc1 or removing it completely there is the potential to induce continued hair cell proliferation which leads to hair growth.

Dr. Brotzu Hair Growth Lotion

Ciao, bella. Italy has always been a place of interesting hair growth research. The latest news comes from Dr. Giovanni (John) Brotzu, a vascular surgeon of the University of Cagliari, Italy. Apparently, a lotion has been developed by Dr. Brotzu that can halt the progression of hair loss and regrow hair. Dr Brotzu discovered his potential treatment for hair growth while testing a drug for vascular insufficiency in patients with diabetes. Interestingly, hair loss on the legs is a common symptom of vascular insufficiency. After noticing increased hair growth on the legs of the patients in the study, one of the doctors in the study suggested testing the compound on the scalp of a nurse with hair loss at the hospital. Initially, the concoction consisted of PGE1 (Prostoglandin E1), but when Brotzu and his associates realized that PGE1 would have to go through lengthy clinical trials because it was considered a drug, they searched for an alternative. Their solution was DGLA, or Dihomo-Gamma-Linolenic-Acid, which is a precursor to PGE1. DGLA would make the solution much cheaper and faster to develop because the product would still be considered a “cosmetic” with DGLA. Dr. Brotzu reported that the replacement ingredient had the same effects as the original and went forward with the research. Update: There is still one more clinical trial for this product planned in March 2016 and if all goes well it could be available in 2017. Sounds fun.

Here’s some (translated) quotes from Dr Brotzu on the scientific action of his product.

“It is known that prostaglandin E1 acts on the endothelial cell receptors by stimulating growth of new capillaries by improving the functions of the skin cells. It also produces a vasodilatation of these which can determine the healing of skin diseases and improve the blood flow of the hair bulb.”

“Equol and DGLA have two different actions. The equol blocks the synthesis of dihydrotestosterone from testosterone, preventing it from causing a contraction and narrowing of vascular sphincter. The DGLA acts on microcirculation, improving the elastic features of endothelial cells, making pervious and increasing the ability to generate neoangiogenesis (formation of new capillaries).

The product that Dr. Brotzu will reportedly bring to market involves cationic liposomes for delivery, Dihomo-Gamma-Linolenic-Acid (DGLA), equol, and carnitine. According to Brotzu, the synergistic effect of DGLA with equol and carnitine produces an effect that is much greater than any of them separately; the cationic liposomes get the ingredients to the important parts of the scalp biology so they can be effective.

Everything about this sounds well. Dr. Brotzu is a reputable doctor, and like most cases in hair growth discovery, this phenomenon was found while attempting to treat another medical condition. Dr. Brotzu’s father actually discovered a specific type of antibiotic named cephalosporins and has a university medical building named after him.

If this product will actually turn out to be a viable treatment for hair growth, like every new product that is announced, we will just have to wait and see.


– An interview from the University of Cagliari.
– A 2016 interview from an Italian hair website.
– A 2015 interview from an Italian hair website.

5 Comments on “COL17A1, Foxc1, Brotzu: Weekly Thoughts 2/8/16

  1. We will know it firsthand through you… Anxiously awaiting the cure!!

  2. Thank you for reporting.
    I’m devastated by hair loss (female) and pray there
    will be something that comes out sooner rather than
    later. I would travel anywhere to “fix” this problem so
    I hope you will enlighten us immediately should you
    hear of a permanent workable genuine solution.
    At 67, I don’t have a long horizon, and like so many
    others, I need it and want it NOW.
    Should I hold out hope ?
    Thanks again

    • Hi Melinda,
      Thanks for your sincere message. I definitely do my best to keep you all informed of imminent solutions.

      I believe there is always a reason to have hope that our needs will be met. By 2018 we can say almost certainly that 2 new therapies should be available. I wish you the best and hope you will enjoy your new hair for a long time.

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