A new method for initiating human hair growth has been developed by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) researchers, using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells.
Their idea is to coax human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells — a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. (Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture, the researchers explain.)
“The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” said Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program at Sanford-Burnham.
“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,” Terskikh said.
“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.”
“Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects. We are currently seeking partnerships to implement this final step.”
In the U.S. alone, more than 40 million men and 21 million women are affected by hair loss, according to the researchers.
The research was published online in PLOS One (open access) Tuesday (Jan. 27). Terskikh was supported in the study by funds from Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, located in La Jolla, California and Orlando, Florida.