RepliCel, based in Vancouver, Canada, is a biotech company actuating on regenerative medicine – not only on the symptoms but in real cures. And the cure that is already under analysis is through the cells of the body itself that can lead to the regeneration of both hair loss, tendons or collagen in the skin, treating fine wrinkles, safely, with the body’s own cells .
cosmetics br conducted an email interview with RepliCel President and CEO Lee Buckler to find out just how regenerative medicine can work in the cosmetics and beauty industry.
1 – In a nutshell what is Cell Therapy and in what areas of repair does it work?
Cell therapy is revolutionizing the future of medicine with the very simple idea that we can capture the power of cells to treat, heal and cure conditions which are poorly addressed with current treatment options. Already cell therapy products are approved for treating certain skin conditions, wounds, aesthetic needs, genetic disorders, and cancers. In addition to those products already approved, there are cell therapies in clinical development and testing for almost every human condition or disease.
2 – How does it works?
At the root of every condition there is a problem related to the cells tied to the degenerated, broken, or diseased bodily tissue, organ or function. Consequently, it is possible to imagine that the best way to treat people would be using cells which address the loss of cells or cell function related to the condition. Treating different types of conditions requires different cell types and using them in different ways. For cancer this is often about preventing uncontrolled cell growth resulting in tumours and/or about triggering immune system cells to kill cancerous cells more effectively. For treating neurological disease, this may require using neural cells. For treating autoimmune disorders, this may require using immune-system cells or cells capable of lowering immune response. For tendon repair, it is about isolating, growing, and injecting cells which produce lots of collagen capable of rebuilding degenerated tendons.
3 – Tell us about your latest cell therapy technology that can avoid hair loss?
For those people with androgenetic alopecia (the primary reason for male hair loss), there is a cell population in the hair follicle that is destroyed by androgen hormones. At the back of the head these same cells are immune to the condition explaining why bald people still have hair at the back of their head. We isolate and grow more of these cells found at the back of the head. We then inject these cells into the top of the head (affected by alopecia) to re-populate the hair follicles with cells capable of growing hair but not affected by the condition.
4- Why does the Asian market have one of the biggest demands?
There are certain populations which have higher incidence of certain conditions and certain markets where people spend more on certain types of conditions or procedures. Certain parts of Asia are typically considered markets where there are some of the highest per-capita expenditures on hair loss, cosmetic procedures, etc.
5 – Brazil has a large population and Brazilian men take good care of themselves, especially when it comes to hair. Most are afraid to think about baldness. So here we have another great demand. The question is: When can this technology can reach the country?
The kind of cell therapies we are developing, which involve manufacturing millions of cells from a small tissue sample, typically require regulatory approval before going to market. For this we need to complete all three typical phases of clinical trials. We believe our product for treating pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia) may launch first in Japan because the rules there allow quicker market approval than in many other countries. We are working on a strategy for bringing the product to market in other countries where this may also be true but this will always involve a commercial partner already established in the market. When we have secured a commercial partner in Brazil, this will help us bring the product to market there faster.
6 – How is the treatment applicable to the skin using the patient’s own cells? There is any possibility of application in day-to-day beauty products?
We have discovered a cell population in the hair follicle which has nothing to do with growing hair fibres but rather expresses protein which build and maintain the tissue of the hair follicle. One of the proteins these cells express the most is Type 1 collagen. Collagen is a natural occurring protein which is key to vital, firm, and flexible skin. Skin aging, damage, sagging, and wrinkles are often related to the loss of collagen under the skin. Currently we use surgery or dermal fillers to fight the effects of skin aging but neither permanently address the loss of collagen. Even collagen filler injections are only temporary. Our recent clinical data suggests that when our cells are injected, there is a significant increase in collagen production which is expected to play an important role in actually regenerating that collagen-rich layer under the skin which keeps it looking young, full, and wrinkle-free.
7 – How does cell therapy also repair sun damage on the skin?
Exposing the skin to sun often triggers faster, greater loss of collagen. This is why the injection of cells which trigger new collagen production combats skin aging regardless of the cause.
8 – How can cell therapy prove its effectiveness? How long can it be visibly noticed?
We are very pleased to have recently announced successful data from phase 1 human clinical trials showing positive effects of our cell therapies in reversing hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia, skin aging, and Achilles tendon degeneration. In our hair trial, we measured results for 2 years and some patients still had positive measurable results at that time. For skin and tendon, we have only measured effects for 6 months so far. Future clinical studies and post-market analysis will tell us how long these positive effects last.