- A new hair loss treatment has been released in Europe that uses RNA technology to help reverse hair loss.
- In theory the treatment can target androgen receptors in order to help hair follicles stay healthy.
- The product is not yet available in the U.S.
Hair loss can be upsetting — whether it’s through aging or as the side effect of an illness or caused by some other means. It’s natural that someone noticing they are losing their hair would try to stay on top of the latest innovations and treatments that come down the pipeline.
Recently, one South Korean company released a new product in Europe that uses siRNA (small interfering RNA) technology to address hair loss at the genetic level. It targets a protein called the androgen receptor, which binds together androgens — which are male hormones —
Billed as the first hair loss treatment that utilizes RNA technology, CosmeRNA was released in Europe this May, developed by Bioneer and Sirnagen.
But this product has yet to be released in the United States and hasn’t been approved by a regulatory agency.
Experts spoke with Healthline about what RNA technology is, what it says about the future of hair loss medications and interventions, and why it’s important you speak with your healthcare provider about vetted, tried and true approaches for treating hair loss before going down the Internet rabbit hole.
Board-certified dermatologist and hair loss expert Dr. Dina Strachan, who is the director of Aglow Dermatology, said that this drug class is a nucleic-acid based drug (NABDs), and works by interacting with messenger RNA, or mRNA, “to block gene expression.”
“In this case, it interferes with the androgen receptor, mRNA takes the genetic information to make a protein from the nucleus of a cell, and brings it into the cytoplasm for production,” Strachan said. “This drug is reported to work by limiting the expression of the androgen receptor gene at the hair follicle.”
She added that androgen shortens a hair’s growth phase, which causes thinner, shorter hair, delaying growth of the following replacement hair.
As a result of having few androgen receptors at the hair follicle level, hair would then have more time to grow longer and thicker, being replaced more quickly when it is finally shed.
Dr. Brian J. Abittan, director of Skin and Hair Rejuvenation and Director of Hair Transplantation at Mount Sinai Health System, told Healthline said RNA technology for hair loss utilizes “very small nanoparticles, this allows for a more direct and efficient delivery to hair follicles through the scalp when massaging after application,” he explained. “Additionally, there is supposed to be less immune activation with this delivery model, which is critical to decreasing the chance for potential side effects.”
While this specific drug hasn’t been approved domestically by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Strachan said the regulatory body has approved other drugs that utilize this RNA technology — Onpattro and Givlaari.
The only catch? They aren’t for hair loss. Onpattro is a drug that treats a type of nerve damage called polyneuropathy, and Givlaari is used to treat acute hepatic porphyria, a family of genetic diseases that can impact the liver and lead to severe symptoms.
As a result it remains unclear how effective this drug will be at stopping or reversing hair loss.
Strachan added that this drug would fall under the “cosmeceutical category.”
The cosmetics industry uses the cosmeceutical term for cosmetics “that have medicinal or drug-like benefits,”
In the U.S., the FDA doesn’t recognize this category.
“The technology of RNA interference has been tested, with varying levels of success, in the laboratory setting. A significant issue has been side effects caused by an inflammatory response created upon delivery,” Abittan added.
When asked if people should be skeptical of these cosmeceutical products, Abittan said “products not tested by a regulatory agency do not have robust safety and efficacy data.”
“It does not mean these products won’t work, but it can be very difficult to determine accurate safety and efficacy without these trials,” he explained.
Both Abittan and Strachan said we will see similar products using this RNA technology that will be developed and brought to market for hair loss. Abittan stressed that, while we will see more emerge,” they will have to undergo further testing on both efficacy and safety.”
Strachan said that if you are curious about what vetted treatments currently exist for hair loss and don’t know where to turn, make sure you start by getting a proper diagnosis from a board-certified dermatologist who has expertise in hair loss.
“Hair loss can be a sign of an underlying disease or other problem,” she stressed. “Understand that hair loss and alopecia are the same thing and are not a complete diagnosis. When you know what you have, then treat.”
Abittan said news of new treatments makes it important that you parse through information online and make sure you seek out effective remedies for why you are losing hair.
“There are so many products available for hair loss and most of them have very little supportive data,” he added. “Seeing a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss can help find the appropriate treatments for the unique needs of each individual.”
If you’re worried about hair loss we have 22 tips on how to save your hair.