New Hair Restoration Method Uses Patient's Own Cells
October 21, 2013

New Hair Restoration Method Uses Patient’s Own Cells

[ Watch the Video: Hair Restoration Hope ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Scientists have created a new hair restoration method that can generate human hair using a patient's own cells.

The new method doesn't just redistribute hair from one part of the scalp to another, but generates new human hair growth altogether. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) wrote in a paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), that this approach could expand the use of hair transplantation to women with hair loss, as well as to men in early stages of baldness.

"About 90 percent of women with hair loss are not strong candidates for hair transplantation surgery because of insufficient donor hair," co-study leader Angela M. Christiano, PhD, the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and professor of genetics & development, said in a statement. "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. 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."

Christiano said patients gained little benefit from existing hair-loss medications, which tend to slow the rate of hair loss, but usually do not stimulate robust new hair growth.

[ Watch the Video: Angela Christiano: New Method For Hair Regeneration ]

"Dermal papilla cells give rise to hair follicles, and the notion of cloning hair follicles using inductive dermal papilla cells has been around for 40 years or so," co-study leader Colin Jahoda, PhD, professor of stem cell sciences at Durham University, England, said in a statement. "However, once the dermal papilla cells are put into conventional, two-dimensional tissue culture, they revert to basic skin cells and lose their ability to produce hair follicles."

Jahoda said they were faced with a catch-22, trying to figure out how to expand a large number of cells for hair regeneration while retaining their inductive properties. Researchers found a clue to overcoming this barrier in their observations of rodent hair. Rodent hair can be easily harvested and successfully transplanted back into rodent skin. The team reasoned that these aggregations must create their own extracellular environment.

"This suggested that if we cultured human papillae in such a way as to encourage them to aggregate the way rodent cells do spontaneously, it could create the conditions needed to induce hair growth in human skin," said first author Claire A. Higgins, PhD, associate research scientist.

Researchers harvested dermal papillae from seven human donors and cloned the cells in tissue culture. After a few days the cultured papillae were transplanted between the dermis and epidermis of human skin that had been grafted onto the backs of mice. The transplants resulted in new hair growth that lasted at least six weeks.

"This approach has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss," Christiano said. "Current hair-loss medications tend to slow the loss of hair follicles or potentially stimulate the growth of existing hairs, but they do not create new hair follicles. Neither do conventional hair transplants, which relocate a set number of hairs from the back of the scalp to the front."

She said their method has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient's own cells, which could greatly expand the utility of hair restoration surgery for women.

The team determined that more work still needs to be done before their method can be tested in humans.

"We need to establish the origins of the critical intrinsic properties of the newly induced hairs, such as their hair cycle kinetics, color, angle, positioning, and texture" said Jahoda. "We also need to establish the role of the host epidermal cells that the dermal papilla cells interact with, to make the new structures."