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REDIzone Award Funds Hair Loss Research

As a scientist in NEOMED’s Heart and Blood Vessel Disease research area, Charles Thodeti, Ph.D., typically works on projects such as one to improve delivery of chemotherapy drugs to treat tumors. Another major project is developing novel therapeutics to inhibit or reverse cardiac fibrosis to treat heart failure.

But the associate professor of integrative medical sciences also has a project now that hits close to home for many men: “Novel mechanisms for modulation of hair growth.”

As Dr. Thodeti notes, hair loss and baldness have a deep impact on human social interactions and psychological well-being. Considering how much a full head of hair means to most men, it’s surprising, says Dr. Thodeti, that there are only two products that are approved for hair growth by the FDA — and that they show only what he terms “limited efficacy” in stimulating hair growth in men with male pattern baldness.

Equally important to women, he says, is the removal of unwanted hair without experiencing painful treatments such as waxing.

Seeing an unmet need, Dr. Thodeti began a project that in Fall 2018 received one of three inaugural REDIzone Faculty Research Awards. Open to researchers in all areas at the University, the new awards are designed to give them a chance to explore ‘’wild and crazy ideas” outside their usual projects, said REDIzone program manager Elliot Reed. Supported by this $10,000 award, Dr. Thodeti is doing research to determine the role of a protein X (MSPX) in hair growth and apply this knowledge to stimulate hair growth with activators and to reduce it with inhibitors.

Scientific serendipity

It was by chance, when removing hair for surgeries and tumor experiments, that Dr. Thodeti first observed that hair growth in wild-type mice is different than in genetically modified MSPX mice. Looking ahead, he says, “We believe that findings from our project could open entirely new avenues for developmental therapeutics — not only in hair growth therapy, but also for painless hair removal.”