A Cure for Baldness Might Come From the Deep Fryer at McDonald's

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iStock

Science has thus far failed sufferers of baldness. Aside from expensive surgeries that transplant individual hair grafts from the back to the front of the head and medications that can slow the progression of loss, there is no cure. But researchers may be closer than ever, thanks to a common food preparation additive found in many fast food menu items.

A study recently published in the journal Biomaterials detailed work performed by Yokohama National University that shows promising results for regenerative therapy—a method for growing hair follicles in enough quantity to repopulate bald or balding areas. The Yokohama scientists were able to produce hair-follicle germs, or HFGs, cells that direct the development of follicles, in the lab. Once injected into the backs of mice, hair follicles and hair shaft regeneration followed: Tufts of hair began sprouting on the mice within days.

Professor Junji Fukuda said in a statement that the key to mass production of HFGs was having a substrate to rest on while being prepared and then injected into the mice. They chose dimethylpolysiloxane, a type of silicone found in commercial frying oils to prevent them from frothing.

The next step will be to see if the approach is as effective in humans. "This simple method is very robust and promising,” Fukuda said. “We hope that this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia. In fact, we have preliminary data that suggests human HFG formation using human keratinocytes [skin] and dermal papilla cells." 

[h/t Newsweek]

FDA Recalls Thyroid Medications Due to Contamination Risk

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iStock

Hypothyroid medications manufactured by Westminster Pharmaceuticals have been recalled after it was discovered that one of the company’s Chinese suppliers failed to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, CNN reports.

The oral tablets contain levothyroxine (LT4) and liothyronine (LT3), which are both synthetic hormones used to treat thyroid conditions.

The medicine was recalled as a precaution after it was discovered during a 2017 FDA inspection that the Chinese supplier in question, Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical Co., was not practicing good manufacturing practices.

However, patients with serious thyroid conditions shouldn’t throw out their pills just yet. No adverse effects from the medication have been reported, and the risk of not taking the medication outweighs the risk of taking a recalled pill.

According to the FDA, “Because these products may be used in the treatment of serious medical conditions, patients taking the recalled medicines should continue taking their medicine until they have a replacement product.”

For more information on the specific lots and products in question, visit the FDA’s website.

[h/t CNN]

A 'Zombie Gene' Might Be the Reason Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

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iStock

When it comes to cancer rates in the animal kingdom, elephants are an anomaly. As Popular Science notes, cancer should be more common among larger species, but with elephants, that simply isn’t the case. Only about 5 percent of elephants die from cancer, compared to 11 to 25 percent of humans.

In a new study, published in Cell Reports, University of Chicago researchers found what’s believed to be the genetic source of elephants’ cancer immunity. Elephants, like all mammals, have a gene called LIF that is known to suppress tumors. Humans have one copy of this gene, but elephants have 10 copies, which have developed over 80 million years of evolution. However, only one of those copies, called LIF6, is functional in elephants.

The other LIF copies are essentially dead because they lack a specific piece of DNA to make them function. At some point during the evolutionary process, the LIF6 gene copy turned back on, but scientists don’t know why or when this occurred. This “zombie gene” helps kill mutated cells, in true Night of the Living Dead fashion.

“This reanimation of LIF6 occurred perhaps over 59 million years,” Joshua Schiffman, who studies cancer in elephants but was not involved in the study, told Popular Science. “That’s an amazingly long period of time for nature to modify and perfect an anticancer mechanism.”

Scientists aren’t yet sure how this could be applied to cancer research in humans, but they say it’s a promising start and a creative approach to the problem. While these findings are still fresh and need to be duplicated, it raises the possibility of creating a drug that mimics the function of LIF6.

[h/t Popular Science]

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