Male pattern baldness is a real problem. There are men out there who start losing hair at a very young age. But this issue isn’t restricted to only the men. Some women also suffer from it. While there are shampoos and medicines available in the market, what they need now is a permanent cure, something that they don’t have to see a cosmetic surgeon for.
While hair transplant can be an option, what if there was another way to cure baldness? What if the scientists found a way to grow hair in a lab and transplant these to people who need it most? This could very well be the cure that many of the people in the population could need now.
A team of researchers from Japan have been looking into the processes of hair growth and they have successfully generated hair follicles in cultures done in a lab. The group performed vitro experiments and this added to their knowledge and understanding of hair follicle development. With time and further testing, this could possibly lead to useful applications for treating hair loss disorders that many suffer from.
To pull the study off, the scientists grew the fully mature hair follicles using long shafts. They used a technique that involves the creation of skin organoids, which are tinier, simpler versions of an organs. They placed these in a Petri dish.
Because they still hadn’t fully understood the mechanisms for hair follicle development, hair follicle morphogenesis were not reproduced in a laboratory culture dish successfully. That is, until this time around. “Organoids were a promising tool to elucidate the mechanisms in hair follicle morphogenesis in vitro,” said Dr. Tatsuto Kageyama, of Yokohama National University in Japan.
The researchers used two types of embryonic cells and then they developed hair shafts with almost 100 percent efficiency. This means that the organoids were able to produce fully mature follicles about 3 mm in length (which is a little more than 1/100 of an inch). The results came after 23 days when they cultured.
As the hair follicles grew, the researchers made sure to observe and monitor their formation and pigmentation. This gave them more insight on the chemicals that are involved in the process. An example would be adding a drug that promoted melanin, a natural pigment that enhanced the color.
When they transplanted the organoids, they were able to achieve regeneration with repeating hair cycles. “The model could prove valuable for better understanding of hair follicle induction, for evaluating hair pigmentation and hair growth drugs, and for regenerating hair follicles,” said Kageyama. She is the lead author of a paper published in the journal Science Advances.
The results may also be vital to the other organ systems. More importantly, these findings could play a big role when it comes to contributing to the understanding of the development physiological and pathological processes. As for the future research, the team has plans. They want to optimize their organoid culture system with human cells this time around.
“Our next step is to use cells from human origin, and apply for drug development and regenerative medicine,” said the paper’s co-author, Professor Junji Fukuda.
The future of this study may possibly open the door to developing new and innovative treatments for hair loss disorders, an example of which would be male pattern baldness. The same principles may someday harness the power to grow and replace teeth, or perhaps other organs because hair is a tiny little organ.