Growing Back

These Lab-Grown Follicles Could Offer New Treatment for Baldness

This stem cell research could lead to a next-generation treatment for baldness.

Feb 12 / Dan Robitzski
Logan Weaver via Unsplash / Futurism
Image by Logan Weaver via Unsplash / Futurism

A team of scientists in Japan used stem cells to engineer hair follicles that can actually grow back when they inevitably fall out.

One of the key components of natural hair growth is that it’s cyclical: When you lose hair, new strands will grow in their place. The team of researchers from the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research seems to have found a way to actually bioengineer this cyclical growth, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. Assuming clinical experiments pan out, the research hints at a future treatment for baldness that yields naturally growing and regrowing hair.

“Our culture system establishes a method for cyclical regeneration of hair follicles from hair follicle stem cells,” RIKEN scientist and project leader Takashi Tsuji said in a press release, “and will help make hair follicle regeneration therapy a reality in the near future.”

The trick was to get the hair follicle stem cells to actually grow and start pumping out hair, a challenge that took 220 different recipes for mediums to treat the cells with and promote growth before they got it right.

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Most of the stem cell-derived follicles grown in the new medium — about 81 percent — were able to survive three or more hair cycles, which is the looping process of hair regrowth that can take several years. That’s significantly better than follicles grown without the medium, 79 percent of which only survived for one cycle.

So far, all of the work on the project has been preclinical — the team used mouse fur and whiskers — but now the team is looking for partners to begin clinical trials for a hair restoration stem cell treatment.


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READ MORE: A recipe for cyclical regeneration of bioengineered hair [RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research]

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