By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Hey fellas, how’s your hair looking today? For most young boys, the answer is probably “thick, shiny, and smooth.” However, according to the American Hair Loss Association, around two thirds of men will suffer some type of hair loss by the time they’re 35 years old, and 85% will have significant thinning when they hit the ripe age of 50. Researchers from the University of Durham and Columbia University may be able to change that fact, though, since they’re the first to grow new human hair!
Mind you, there are already treatments for balding patients. Transplants, for example, take a patch of hair-healthy skin from the back of the head and implant it into a bald spot. In some cases, patients take medication or use special shampoos to stop hair loss, but as the researchers point out, these are not the best options. “Current hair-loss medications tend to slow the loss of hair follicles or potentially stimulate the growth of existing hairs, but they do not create new hair follicles,” said Professor Angela Christiano from Columbia University. “Our method, in contrast, has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient’s own cells.”
It took a couple of steps to figure out the process, but the group eventually got it. First, they took human tissue from what is called the dermal papillae – the cells which form the base of each hair follicle. When they clumped the cells together in “3D spheroids” and transplanted them onto skin grafts, hair began to grow! “This method offers the possibility of inducing large numbers of hair follicles or rejuvenating existing hair follicles, starting with cells grown from just a few hundred donor hairs,” co-study leader Angela M. Christiano, PhD.
Sadly, there were a couple of problems with the process. Of the seven implants, only five sprouted new shafts, and they didn’t grow too thick either. Additionally, the team couldn’t control which way the hair grew, so they sprouted in all kinds of wacky directions! Still, this study is promising not only for balding males and females (yes, it happens to women too!), but for burn victims as well. “This study is an important step toward the goal of creating a replacement skin that contains hair follicles…,” said study co-author Colin Jahoda.
Featured image courtesy of Greg PC on Flickr. Image of hair transplant courtesy of Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.