Friday, June 26, 2015 - FOR the first time, a team of scientists reports successfully growing human hairs from dermal papilla cells taken from the inside of donor hair follicles. The team, from Columbia University Medical Center in the US and Durham University in the UK, says their technique generates new human hair growth, rather than simply redistributing hair follicles from one part of the scalp to another.
In a study they report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they describe how they tested their new approach on mice - by growing hairs on human skin grafted onto the animals. Current hair transplant treatments relocate hair follicles from one part of the head to another, usually from the back to the front. This redistributes rather than increases hair follicles and is a lengthy process that can take all day in the clinic and leaves a large scar.
The new approach would actually increase the number of hair cells able to produce hair. It would take fewer hair cells (leaving a much smaller scar), grow them in a lab culture, then transplant the multiplied cells back into the bald or thinning parts of the patient’s scalp. If it leads to clinical success, the technique could benefit not only men in early stages of baldness, but also women with hair loss, who are mostly unable to use current transplant treatments because of insufficient donor hair.
Co-lead author Angela M. Christiano, the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and professor of genetics & development at Columbia, explains: “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. It could make hair transplantation available to individuals with a limited number of follicles, including those with female-pattern hair loss, scarring alopecia, and hair loss due to burns.”
The idea of cloning hair follicles has been around for decades. Scientists already know that dermal papilla cells, that are found inside the hair follicles, can give rise to new follicles. A new technique that involves cloning dermal papillae and transplanting them in tissue culture has resulted in the successful growth of new human hair, results which could transform hair-loss treatment. But attempts to make this happen tend to hit brick walls, as co-lead author Colin Jahoda, professor of stem cell sciences at Durham and co-director of North East England Stem Cell Institute, explains.