The most well-known side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss. This is a very public issue for many people. Luminate Medical might have a solution. A medical wearable prevents the chemical mixture from tainting hair follicles. This may prevent the worst of the loss, and maybe even make it less visible.
Aaron Hannon, Luminate CEO, and Brbara Oliveira, his co-founder, were asking doctors and patients about cancer treatments that they could possibly innovate in. We were astonished by how much hair loss dominated our conversation, Hannon said. From then on, we've been laser-focused on creating that thing that doesn't exist anymore.
The cancer-inhibiting drugs can be absorbed into the body of patients undergoing chemotherapy. Side effects include weakness, nausea, and hair loss. The Luminates solution was developed in partnership by the National University of Ireland Galway. It prevents blood from reaching these cells.
This is achieved by a mechanized compression garment that fits over the head. It doesn't use any hard materials, Hannon said. The pressure is controlled and monitored.
The cells are also protected from damage by a lack of blood flow. He said that compression therapy has been well researched. These therapies can be used for as long as you like without causing damage to the cells. There is a lot of literature. It takes a lot of mechanical engineering to make it both effective and comfortable.
The cap is worn by the patient during and after chemo sessions. It prevents blood from flowing to the scalp, allowing the drugs to flow freely to any site where the cancerous tumor is. This also protects the hair follicles.
Animal tests showed strong hair retention at around 80 percent. There were no adverse effects. Although full human trials will take time and approval, the initial testing of the headset's bloodflow-blocking effect on healthy patients confirmed that it works as expected.
Hannon said that they were excited about the effectiveness of this therapy as it can be used with many hair types. This is a significant consideration as a tech that works only with straight hair or short hair would be unable to help many people.
Hannon said that despite the availability of new treatments that cool the hair instead of compressing it and that there are other methods, wigs still make up the majority. A wig costs an average of 1,000 dollars per patient. This means that there is a lot of room for new devices in the area.
Many insurance companies consider hair loss a medical condition and wigs are often covered. However, approval for Luminates devices will take time and a lot of evidence. The team believes that the device, which costs around $1,500 is affordable, provided other costs are not covered by insurance. It is not only wigs that people spend so much on, but also other hair retention products. Many people would be able to check the box that says "Don't lose hair on chemo forms" without second thoughts if it came with a $1500 price tag.
Luminate hopes to make the device affordable for all, and is working towards FDA approval.
Luminate, a recent graduate of Y Combinators Summer 2021 cohort, has had the privilege to work with funds provided by grants from the Irish government. These grants are non-dilutive. Although more capital is almost certain to be needed when it comes time for international scaling and launch, the team is focusing on getting the device in the hands (and heads) of its first patients.