The researchers from Columbia University Medical Center ( CUMC ) have developed a new more effective method of hair regeneration. Co-study leader Angela M. Christiano , PhD, the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and Professor of Genetics & Development, said that most of the women with hair loss are not candidates for transplant surgery because of an insufficient donor hair. They explained that this method offers the possibility to induce a large number of hair follicles or rejuvenate existing hair follicles. According to study authors, this method could be available to individuals with limited number of hair follicles as women with hair loss due to alopecia or burns. This new method could provide an eficient alternative because hair-loss medication only slow the rate of hair loss without stimulating new hair growth.
Co-study leader Colin Jahoda, PhD, Professor of Stem Cell Sciences at Durham University, England, and co-director of North East England Stem Cell Institute, explained that dermal papilla cells give rise to hair follicles and that the notion of cloning hair with inductive dermal papilla cells has been known for over 40 years. Jahoda explained that when these cells are placed in two-dimensional tissue cultures they transform into basic skin cells and lose their ability to generate hair follicles. So, the problem was to attempt to replicate these cells while maintaining their property to generate hair follicles.
The researchers observed that unlike human papillae, rodent papillae can be harvested, expanded and transplanted successfully in rodents. It seems that rodents have dermal papillae which, in tissue culture, spontaneously aggregate and form some clumps, which means that they create their own extracellular microenvironment. First author Claire A. Higgins, PhD, associate research scientist, said: “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.”
Researchers harvested dermal papillae from seven human donors and cloned these cells in tissue culture without adding growth factors. Then these cells were transplanted between the epidermis and dermis of human skin which was grafted onto the back of mice. It seems that in 5 of the 7 cases , the transplanted cells resulted in new hair growth.
The researchers said that further studies are needed before this method to be tested on humans. They must establish the properties of the new induced hairs such as color, angle, positioning, but the research team is optimistic and hopes to start the clinical trials as soon as possible.