Alopecia UK funds invested:  £13,500

When:  December 2017-September 2020

Project type:  PhD Studentship consumables

Project Lead:  Teontor Simakou

Length of project: 3 years

Research Institute:  University of the West of Scotland (UWS)

Condition of interest:  Alopecia Areata

Funds being used for:  Consumables costs for cell culture, nanokicking experiments, PCR and screening of serum and faecal samples for autoimmune factors.

Overall Aim of the Project:

To treat alopecia areata using a non-chemical technology based on nanovibrations (Nanokicking)

Justification for research project:

UWS propose that in the future stem cell therapies will be key in developing regenerative therapies for many conditions, including those affecting the immune response. This project studied whether the application of nanoscale mechanical stimulations, called ‘Nanokicking’, could be used to manipulate the way cells with immune function develop and behave (known as differentiation), which in turn could influence the course of different immune conditions, such as autoimmune disorders and immunodeficiency and the effects of vaccines. ‘Nanokicking’ has already been successful in the targeted differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) to bone and shows huge potential for bone regeneration and bone disorders. UWS have data to suggest it can play a role in other tissue type development. In addition to providing insight into the immunological mechanisms underpinning human disease, the technology has the potential to provide in vitro models which could be exploited commercially.

Who is leading the project:

The project was undertaken by research student, Teontor Simakou, who is working as part of an interdisciplinary team of enthusiastic scientists, experts in biology and physics. Teontor has a good knowledge of immunology, immunoassays and molecular biology.  Teontor’s ambition is to learn how physics can boost biological applications and have a positive impact on global healthcare.

Updates on the project:

Ted succeeded in getting data in laboratory tests showing that the nanokicking vibrations can cause immune cells called monocytes to increase their production of a chemical called messenger RNA, which normally promotes production of a pressure-sensitive protein on the cell surface called Piezo1. These cells are among those that are normally active during inflammation in the body. This was the first step towards understanding if nanokicking influence immune cell differentiation and enabled Ted to gain a PhD for his work. Ted has since moved to take up a new position as a post-doctoral scientist and is committed to research on autoimmune diseases.

Visit our Blogs section to read Ted's views on alopecia research.

Research outcomes:

In 2019, Ted published a review titled: 'Alopecia areata: A multifactorial autoimmune condition' in the Journal of Autoimmunity.

In 2021, Ted published a paper on his research findings titled: 'Gene expression during THP-1 differentiation is influenced by vitamin D3 and not vibrational mechanostimulation' in the open access PeerJ journal.