Since the beginning of 2014, numerous studies have been published looking at using stem cell research and their components to aid hair regrowth and ultimately assist in the effective treatment of hair loss. Currently in the experimental stages, researchers believe that a treatment for baldness may soon be a reality – using stem cells to regrow missing or dying follicles.
Perelman School of Medicine
The school of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania published results of their study into stem cells, where they describe how they were able to convert adult cells into epithelial stem cells – cells that facilitate the regrowth of follicles. The thought of using stem cells to regrow follicles has never been properly experimented on before and the team says they are the first to achieve this result.
How did the team produce the cells?
By adding three genes, the team led by Dr. Xiaowei Xu, converted human skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These stem cells are able to change into any cell types in the body, which means the researchers were able to convert them to those stem cells which are commonly found in part of hair follicles. Dr. Xu was able to force the iPSCs to make large quantities of epithelial stem cells – using techniques from other researchers to convert the iPSCs into keratinocytes.
Not ready for practical use yet
Though hair follicles were produced from this experiment, Dr. Xu says there is still a while to go before this can be implemented as remedy to hair loss for patients. “This is the first time anyone has made progress of cells that are capable of generating hair follicles” – adding that the cells could aid in wound healing as well as hair regeneration. However, researchers will still need to determine how to foster the growth of dermal papillae, the other cell that is needed for a healthy hair follicle to grow.
Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development
States away, a team at the Laboratory located at the Rockefeller University in New York focused on stem cells in the hair follicle to determine what causes them to switch on – naming the signal as “Sonic Hedgehog”. Led by Ya-Chieh Hsu, the team was able to disable the signal which allowed them to interfere with hair growth and regeneration.
Importance of Sonic Hedgehog
The results of the research concluded that Transit-Amplifying cells (TACs) are able to emit a signal that induces quiet hair follicle stem cells to become active. Once TACs are generated, the stem cell population becomes activated. Although there still needs to more insight into how to control TACs and the Sonic Hedgehog signal, this study can prove to be vital into the manifestations of hair loss, which in the long run can be beneficial when using stem cells to facilitate hair regrowth.
Ashley and Martin currently do not advocate the use of stem cells, however our doctors constantly stay in touch and monitor the latest research and developments in hair loss treatment.