Out of all of the different types of hair loss, alopecia areata is by far one of the most devastating. Capable of leaving you completely bald and with no real cure available, the condition has a major impact on self-esteem and confidence.
Hope has been provided to sufferers however, after a Columbia University researcher has managed to grow hair within a lab.
An innovative new hair transplant technique
Researcher Angela Christiano, has set up her own company aptly called “Rapunzel”, after she herself developed alopecia areata. Not satisfied with current treatments, she decided to create her own!
By using the patients stem cells and turning them into hair, she hopes to improve upon current hair transplant surgery techniques. Stem cells are renowned for being able to convert to any cell within the body.
So far, Christiano has seen excellent success, though she’s only currently experimented with rat hair.
Why the new technique outshines traditional hair transplants
So what makes the use of hair grown within a lab better than traditional techniques? Well, with standard hair transplants, the hair needs to be taken from suitable donor sites. Even if there are good donor sites available, there are still only so many hairs that can be taken.
If hair can be successfully grown in a lab environment, it would provide an unlimited amount of hairs that could be directly transplanted onto affected areas. This also makes the transplant process a lot more straight forward. The unaffected hair can be left alone, so there’s no chance of swapping one bald patch for another.
Obviously if hair is taken from a different part of the scalp, that’s going to make that area look a little thinner. So, the new technique would revolutionise the hair transplant process.
This is actually Christiano’s second hair loss start-up. Her first, Vixen Pharmaceuticals, focused on the development of a hair loss drug using JAK inhibitors. Commonly used to treat autoimmune conditions, so far two JAK inhibitors have been FDA approved.
Overall, this new research is particularly exciting for those who suffer from alopecia areata. However, it could be used to treat a number of hair loss conditions. The next step in Christiano’s research would be to test human hair growth, but the results so far are definitely promising.