Startup recipe: collect hair at the barber, isolate keratin, regenerate nerves

hairbobbyBiotech entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs, here is a tip for Ya to launch a regmed business (and don’t forget to market the product as recycled and green) :

Winston-Salem Journal: Human hair could hold key to regeneration of nerve tissue, Wake Forest research shows

The study, published in the current issue of Biomaterials, found that the protein keratin found in human hair enhances nerve regeneration and improves nerve function – compared with current treatment options – in animal research.

As part of the study, the scientists used hair cut at a local barber shop and chemically processed it to remove the keratin. The keratin protein was purified and used to form gels that filled the nerve guidance conduits.

How keratin works is that the protein affects Schwann cells, which Van Dyke said plays a vital role in nerve regeneration. Those cells produce signals that tell nerve cells to begin regenerating and “remodel” the blood clot that has formed so that nerve cells can grow across it.

“By using keratin to activate these cells, we’re trying to tap into the natural healing cascade,” Van Dyke said. “We believe that keratin helps amp up Schwann cell activity and give the nerve regeneration process a head start.”

The research was conducted by Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Here is the abstract of the article, called The use of keratin biomaterials derived from human hair for the promotion of rapid regeneration of peripheral nerves.

The management of trauma-associated nerve defects is difficult because of the absence of autologous donor motor or sensory nerves. Pre-clinical development and clinical experience has shown that damaged nerves can be surgically repaired using a tubular conduit interposed across the defect. Acceptable patient outcomes are achieved so long as the gap distance does not exceed a few centimeters. Although research in animals has demonstrated that nerve repair can be facilitated across slightly larger gaps by introducing a biomaterial filler into the conduit lumen, these biomaterials are not typically “neuroinductive” (i.e. capable of acting directly on regenerative cells to enhance nerve tissue formation beyond clinical limits). Moreover, their use does not often result in functional recovery equivalent to nerve autograft, the clinical gold standard. Here we show that a biomaterial gel made from the proteins found in human hair can mediate a robust nerve regeneration response, in part through activation of Schwann cells. In vitro, keratins extracted from human hair enhance the activity of Schwann cells by a chemotactic mechanism, increase their attachment and proliferation, and up-regulate expression of important genes. Moreover, these characteristics translate to improved functional nerve recovery in an animal model. These results suggest that a biomaterial derived from human hair keratins is neuroinductive and can facilitate an outcome comparable to autograft in a nerve injury model.

2 thoughts on “Startup recipe: collect hair at the barber, isolate keratin, regenerate nerves

  1. Attila,

    I bet the stem cell tourism companies have already cleaned out all the barber shops in the former soviet republic of Georgia (where Medra does their stem cell ‘therapies’).

    I love the term ‘wantrepreneur’….


  2. Kindly send me the “start-up’ recipe for isolation of keratin from human hair. I need it to work on my undergrad project

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