News / Science & Technology

    Could a Cure for Baldness Be on the Horizon?

    Spheres of cultured papillae cells from human hair follicles successfully produced new human hair when transplanted between the dermis and epidermis of human skin. (Claire Higgins/Christiano Lab at Columbia University Medical Center)
    Spheres of cultured papillae cells from human hair follicles successfully produced new human hair when transplanted between the dermis and epidermis of human skin. (Claire Higgins/Christiano Lab at Columbia University Medical Center)
    Rick Pantaleo
    Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center may have come with something that many have been in search of for years, the ability to actually grow new hair on a balding head. 

    The researchers, writing in a study that was published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), say they have come up with a method that can actually generate new hair growth, not just redistribute hair from one particular part of the head to another.

    Most people normally shed between 50 and 100 strands of hair each day.  Losing that much hair, believe it or not, shouldn’t cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair says the Mayo Clinic. But for many, especially as they get older, their hair gradually thins out, some to the point where the hair loss or alopecia can affect a person’s overall appearance. 

    Since, to many, a full healthy head of hair symbolizes youth and vitality, a balding head could represent the opposite, getting old and not being as vibrant. 

    As a result, the hair restoration industry has become a $1.88 billion a year business.

    Hair loss in women can prove to be a much more serious problem than in men, since the psychological effects and the impact to self-esteem due to hair loss can be increased. 

    Many of today’s modern restoration techniques may not be as effective since women tend to have insufficient donor hair.

    "About 90 percent of women with hair loss are not strong candidates for hair transplantation surgery because of insufficient donor hair," said co-study leader Angela M. Christiano, PhD, a professor of dermatology and professor of genetics & development. "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."

    For the first time, researchers have been able to take human dermal papilla cells (those inside the base of human hair follicles) and use them to create new hairs. (Claire Higgins/Christiano Lab at Columbia University Medical Center)For the first time, researchers have been able to take human dermal papilla cells (those inside the base of human hair follicles) and use them to create new hairs. (Claire Higgins/Christiano Lab at Columbia University Medical Center)
    x
    For the first time, researchers have been able to take human dermal papilla cells (those inside the base of human hair follicles) and use them to create new hairs. (Claire Higgins/Christiano Lab at Columbia University Medical Center)
    For the first time, researchers have been able to take human dermal papilla cells (those inside the base of human hair follicles) and use them to create new hairs. (Claire Higgins/Christiano Lab at Columbia University Medical Center)
    Patients suffering from such hair loss, according to Christiano, gain very little benefit from the already existing hair-loss treatments and medications.  While the treatments may slow down the rate of hair loss, they usually do not stimulate robust new hair growth.

    The researchers said that dermal papilla cells – protrusions from inner skin tissue – can produce hair follicles. They also said the idea of using the cells to clone hair follicles has been around for the last 40 or so years.

    In past experiments, the researchers said that they had some problems in actually producing human hair follicles. They found that once they put dermal papilla cells into a conventional, two-dimensional tissue culture instead of producing hair follicles as they had hoped, the cells simply reverted into basic skin cells that weren’t able to produce hair follicles.

    “So we were faced with a Catch-22: how to expand a sufficiently large number of cells for hair regeneration while retaining their inductive properties,” said Colin Jahoda, from Durham University, England, and co-director of North East England Stem Cell Institute.

    To get beyond this paradox the researchers studied rodent hair.  With a method developed by Jahoda, scientists were able gather papillae cells from rodents, grow hair and successfully transplant the cells back into rodent skin.

    The researchers said that they suspected that the chief reason why rodent hair can be so easily transplanted is that, unlike human papillae, their dermal papillae must have an ability to create a special environment outside of the cells, which would allow the papillae to reprogram the skin of the recipient to grow new follicles.

    "This suggested that if we cultured human papillae in such a way as to encourage them to aggregate the way rodent cells do spontaneously, it could create the conditions needed to induce hair growth in human skin," said the study’s first author Claire A. Higgins, PhD, associate research scientist.

    In order to see if their theory could be proven, the scientists gathered dermal papillae from seven human donors and cloned the cells in a tissue culture, adding no additional growth factors into the mix.  

    A few days later, they transplanted the cultured papillae between the dermis and epidermis of human skin and then grafted the skin onto the backs of mice.
    The researchers found that in five out of seven tests performed not only did the transplants produce new hair growth, but the hair itself also lasted for at least six weeks.

    Using a DNA analysis, the researchers confirmed that the new hair follicles that grew on the mice’s backs were indeed human and that they genetically matched the donors.

    "This approach has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss," said Christiano. "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. Neither do conventional hair transplants, which relocate a set number of hairs from the back of the scalp to the front. Our method, in contrast, has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient's own cells. This could greatly expand the utility of hair restoration surgery to women and to younger patients—now it is largely restricted to the treatment of male-pattern baldness in patients with stable disease."

    The scientists did point out that more research and study will need to be done before they can actually test the method on humans.  

    The research team said they are optimistic that clinical trials could begin in the near future.

    "We also think that this study is an important step toward the goal of creating a replacement skin that contains hair follicles for use with, for example, burn patients," said Jahoda.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora