Stem cells generate human hair growth

February 9, 2015

The study represents the first step toward the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss. Read and learn more

Researchers have developed a way to generate new human hair growth using pluripotent stem cells, according to a study published online in PLOS One, January 21. The study, according to its researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif., is the first step toward creating a cell-based hair loss treatment.

"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," Alexey Terskikh, PhD, associate professor in the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program at Sanford-Burnham, says in a press release. "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."

The researchers’ protocol encourages human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells. Dermal papillae are mesenchymal cells that regulate hair follicle formation and growth cycle. However, in adults, these cells cannot be readily amplified outside the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties, according to Dr. Terskikh.

RELATED: Hair vs health in African American women

"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," he says. “Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects.”

Boca Raton, Fla., hair transplant surgeon Alan J. Bauman, M.D., writes in an email to Dermatology Times that the possibility that Dr. Terskikh’s work could be a real step toward hair follicle multiplication is exciting. The keys to clinical success in the long and short term would be the resulting follicles’ ability to resist the effects of dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, a primary trigger for hair loss, as well as the ability of the hair to maintain adequate diameter, length via normal hair cycles, and other qualities in order to produce cosmetically significant hair.
 
“… if this particular type of hair multiplication of DHT [dihydrotestosterone]-resistant follicles is successful, it may not require any transplantation surgery to be a viable treatment.  If safe, this breakthrough would certainly be deemed a success once proven that the hair follicles could be generated directly in the bald scalp of the patient, and if they will live, grow and produce hair in a cosmetically-acceptable fashion. This is an important ‘if,’ because in hair restoration, a natural angle, orientation, position and proper groupings (i.e. 1, 2 or 3 follicles per follicular unit) of follicles are critical for naturalness,” Dr. Bauman writes.

RELATED: What is Emu oil?


It’s also possible that in the early stages, this kind of technology might be used as an adjunct to hair transplantation, like PRP is often used today, according to Dr. Bauman.

   
Study source: Gnedeva K, Vorotelyak E, Cimadamore F, Cattarossi G, Giusto E, Terskikh VV,Terskikh AV. Derivation of hair-inducing cell from human pluripotent stem cells. PLoS One. 2015 Jan 21..