A pioneering new study from a US research firm has shown that human stem cells can be used to generate human hair.
The research, from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, represents the first step toward the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss. Such methods have been theorised by scientists for years, yet this is the first study in which human stem calls have successfully resulted in hair growth.
The study was published yesterday by the Public Library of Science.
Alexey Terskikh, Associate Professor in the Development, Ageing, and Regeneration Program at Sanford-Burnham, commented, “We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another.”
“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.”
Testing on mice, researchers developed a hair transplant method that involves turning stem cells into dermal papilla cells, a population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle.
The use of stem cells, which can be adapted into any other form of cell, was necessary as human dermal papilla cells are not suitable for hair transplants.
“In adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties,” explained Terskikh. “We developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice.”
Hair loss affects the over 40 million men and 21 million women in the US alone. The researchers are now looking for human participants on which to trial their findings.
“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.”