Luminate aims to make hair loss from chemotherapy a thing of the past – TechCrunch

Chemotherapy hair loss is one of the most noticeable side effects in all of medicine and, for many, an undesirable public announcement of their condition and treatment. Luminate medicine could have a solution in a medical wearable that prevents the chemical cocktail from staining the hair follicles, preventing the worst of loss, and possibly making that highly visible condition a thing of the past.

When Luminate CEO Aaron Hannon and co-founder Bárbara Oliveira asked patients and doctors about areas of cancer treatment they might be innovative in, “we were just amazed at how much hair loss dominated the conversation,” said Hannon. “From then on, we just focused on creating something that no longer exists.”

When a patient undergoes chemotherapy, the anti-cancer drugs flow throughout the body – wherever the blood goes. This has a variety of side effects, such as weakness and nausea, and hair loss occurs over a long period of time as the substances affect the follicles. Luminate’s solution, developed in partnership with the National University of Ireland Galway, is to prevent the blood from reaching these cells in the first place.

Image of a woman wearing the Luminate headset.

Credit: to shine

The device that does this is a type of mechanized compression garment for the head. If this sounds a little scary, don’t worry – the pressure comes from air bubbles and pads pressing against the scalp, not screws or plates; Hannon says it’s not uncomfortable and the pressure is carefully monitored.

There is also no risk of damage from insufficient blood flow to these cells. “Compression therapy has been researched really well,” he said. “There are years of literature on how long you can use these therapies without damaging the cells. A certain amount of mechanical engineering is required to make it comfortable and effective. “

The patient wears the cap during and after all of the chemotherapy. By restricting blood flow only to the skin of the scalp, the drugs can flow freely to where the tumor or cancer site is while protecting the hair follicles from damage.

Animal studies have been conducted and found around 80 percent hair retention with no adverse effects – and while full human trials may take some time and approval to set up, initial tests of the headset’s blood flow-blocking effect in healthy patients have been shown that it works exactly as expected in humans too.

“We are really excited about the effectiveness of this therapy as it works on many hair types,” said Hannon. This is a real consideration as a technology that only works with short hair, straight hair, or some other subset of hairstyles would shut out way too many people.

The Luminate app shows how long therapy remains for the user.

Credit: Luminate / Wild Island images

As for the competition, while there are some new treatments that cool the scalp instead of compressing it, Hannon found that by far the most money is spent on wigs. An average of a thousand dollars per patient who opts for a wig means there is significant gadget headroom in this neighborhood.

Although hair loss is considered a medical condition by many insurance companies and other reimbursement methods, and wigs are often covered, it will take time and a lot of evidence to get the Luminate device approved for these processes. But the team is confident that at around $ 1,500, the device is within the range for many as long as the other costs are covered by insurance. After all, people are spending so much and more not just on wigs but on other hair holding products and methods as well. If there was a “don’t lose hair” check box on the $ 1,500 price tag chem forms, a lot of people would be safe ticking it.

Co-founders Bárbara Oliveira (left) and Aaron Hannon.

Credit: to shine

Ultimately, however, Luminate wants to be able to offer the device to those who cannot afford the cost out of pocket, so they are heading for FDA approval and a US launch, with Europe and others to follow.

So far, Luminate, which has just closed the summer of 2021 from Y Combinator, has been fortunate to work with funds provided through grants from the Irish government, which of course are not watering down. While more capital will almost certainly be needed to scale up and go to market internationally, the team is currently focused on getting the device into the hands (and on the heads) of its first patients.

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