With over 61 million men and women affected in the United States, hair loss is indeed a concern. A team from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute grew hair from stem cells, opening up another avenue those suffering from hair loss can explore as treatment.
Alexey Terskikh and colleagues consider their method a marked improvement over methods currently in use relying on existing hair follicles from one part of the head to be transplanted on another. By using stem cells as a source, their method can create an unlimited source of cells that a transplantation patient can use, taking away limitations set in place by the availability of hair follicles.
The researchers came up with a means to coax human pluripotent stem cells into becoming dermal papilla cells, a unique group of cells responsible for regulating the formation and growth of hair follicles. On their own, dermal papilla cells are not ideal for transplants because they are not able to sustain their ability to induce the formation of hair follicles in culture and are simply not available in enough amounts.
After having successfully recreated the foundations of a healthy head of hair in stem cells, the researchers are now ready to take the next step: transplanting dermal papilla cells into human subjects. They are looking for partnerships to support further work into their research and meet their goals.
The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. It's a blanket term referring to any kind of hair loss. Loss of hair can be due to a number of reasons, caused by a number of factors ranging from the environment to genetics. Androgenetic alopecia, more commonly known as male or female pattern baldness, is the most common form of hair loss. For alopecias non-androgenetic in nature, cases of scarring alopecia, ringworm, telogen effluvium, alopecia areata and hair loss as a result of cosmetic overprocessing are most commonly seen by dermatologists.
Compared to other health conditions, hair loss and other hair diseases get very little attention, resulting in sparse research which yields very few solutions to those suffering from them. Hair research still has ways to go but the great strides Terskikh and colleagues took with their work on stem cells and hair transplants offer a lot of hope for those dealing with alopecia.
Others who contributed to the study include: Ksenia Gnedeva, Vasiliy Terskikh, Ekaterina Vorotelyak, Elena Giusto, Flavio Cimadamore and Giulio Cattarossi.