Bio-hair on mouse
Hair-thinning or baldness is a source of material for comedians, but for many people, especially women, it’s no laughing matter. Hair is considered a symbol of fertility and youth and so the signs of thinning – a wider parting, receding hair line or visible scalp – can dramatically affect a person’s self-esteem. There are several causes of hair loss or thinning – men may have male-pattern baldness, which is genetic, and both men and women may have hormonal factors that can cause thinning. Thyroid problems and scalp infections, as well as certain medications (for cancer, arthritis or depression, for example), can also cause hair to fall out more rapidly. Now, however, researchers from Japan have found a way to regenerate hair using adult stem cells.
The researchers used a bioengineered hair follicle ‘germ’ which had been taken from adult stem cells and found they could use it to produce a fully functioning hair follicle and produce hair growth. This research was undertaken on mice, so the next step would be to see whether the same results could be repeated with humans.
It’s not only about your looks, however. This research holds promise for the regeneration of other parts of the human body too – organs that are injured, ageing or diseased may respond well to a similar type of treatment. The researchers say that this study shows that bioengineered organ replacement therapy could be a viable option. If further research backs up their theory, it could revolutionise the way hospitals treat diseased and injured patients.