Science may have the cure for hair loss

By Lesley Dobson, Thursday 24 October 2013

Scientific breakthrough could change our approach to hair restoration on both medical and cosmetic grounds.

Man checking his hairThis new method of hair loss treatment offers the possibility of inducing large numbers of hair follicles or rejuvenating existing hair follicles

Scientists and hair growth experts have been trying to find a way to tackle the problem of hair loss for years. Now a new study carried out by a team of researchers from Columbia University Medical Centre in the USA, and Durham University in the UK, may have discovered the answer.

Scientists from Durham University and Columbia University Medical Centre in America, collaborated on this research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Existing methods of hair restoration involve moving hair from one part of the head to another. The new technique involves taking human dermal papilla cells (from inside the base of human hair follicles), to generate new hair follicles.

This new technique could be especially beneficial for women who have suffered hair loss. “About 90% of women with hair loss are not strong candidates for hair transplantation surgery because of insufficient donor hair,” explains co-study leader Angela M. Christiano, PhD, the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck 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.”

While this is good news for men with naturally-occurring hair-thinning and baldness, it has the potential to help women and those who have lost hair through medical reasons or accidents too.

“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.” The scientists also believe it could help men in the early stages of baldness, while they still have hair.

Part of the research involved harvesting dermal papilla cells from seven human donors. The researchers then cloned these in a laboratory, and transplanted them into human skin grafted onto the back of mice. Five of the seven tests were successful, resulting in new hair growth that lasted at least six weeks.

Professor Colin Jahoda, in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University is also a study co-author. “Ultimately, we think that this study is an important step towards the goal of creating a replacement skin that contains hair follicles for use with, for example, burn patients.”

The hair-loss medications available at the moment tend to slow down the loss of hair follicles, or may stimulate existing hairs to grow. However, unlike this new process, they don’t create new hair follicles. “This approach has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss,” says Professor Christiano. “Our method 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.”

This research is still in its early stages, and more work needs to be carried out. However the research team is confident that clinical trials could begin in the near future.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.


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