In a genuine world first, American scientists have converted human stem cells into a type of cell that is capable of initiating hair growth.
When these cells were transplanted into bald mice, they successfully induced human hair growth, suggesting that with further development this method could lead to a cell-based treatment for people suffering hair loss.
“The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” lead scientist Alexey Terskikh said in a news release. “Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn’t limited by the availability of existing hair follicles.”
Around 80 million American men and women suffer with hair loss. Causes vary from regular male pattern baldness to various forms of alopecia, telogen effluvium and other illnesses. Alopecia can be caused by a variety of factors from genetics to the environment, such as skin conditions or certain drugs. While it’s possible to slow down the progression of hereditary hair loss with treatment, unfortunately there is no cure for this condition.
Realising the need for better treatments to help people with permanent hair loss, scientists from Sanford-Burnham began contemplating the potential of using stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, which are derived from very early mammalian embryos, are undifferentiated “blank slate” cells, meaning they have not yet assumed a particular role or function. Scientists are particularly interested in these cells because they have the ability to become any cell in the human body, promising an almost unlimited supply of a particular cell type.
Using stem cell technology is nothing new in the world of hair restoration, in fact we've been eagerly awaiting a breakthrough for more than 20 years now. However at this stage, using stem cells for hair loss treatment is nothing more than a work in progress. This news today however, brings us perhaps one small step closer.
“Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects,” said Terskikh. “We are currently seeking partnerships to implement this final step.”