New Study Paves Way For New Approach To Treating Hair Loss in Humans

Both male and female pattern hair loss or baldness are together called androgenetic alopecia. This is more frequently caused by genetic and hormonal factors in the individual. Often, people who have androgenetic alopecia have family members with the same condition.

According to the Genetics Home Reference, the likelihood of experiencing androgenetic alopecia increases with age. Over half of males aged 50 and older have some degree of hair loss, although it can also affect teenagers. In females, it is most likely to occur following menopause. Hair thinning in males tends to occur from the hairline to the back of the head. Whiles in females, it tends to affect the crown of the head.

Treating Hair loss

Several factors contribute to human hair loss: It can be hereditary, or it can occur as a result of aging, hormonal imbalances or treatment with cancer fighting medications. All of these can lead to the loss of stem cells responsible for hair formation during development and the replacement of hairs that are shed during normal hair cycling.

Hair loss is currently treated with drugs and hair transplantation. People can try taking prescription medication to treat thinning hair. There are officially approved two prescription drugs for treating androgenetic alopecia: minoxidil and finasteride. In hair transplantation, hair follicles are removed from one part of the body (such as the back of the head) to the site of hair loss.

Researchers say that currently, these treatment methods have their limitations. Drugs are inefficient at stimulating hair regrowth to the extent necessary to counteract hair loss and hair transplantation doesn’t increase hair numbers in the scalp.

New Study Paves Way For New Approach to Treating Hair Loss in Humans

A recent news report published on Science Daily says that Japanese scientists have developed an efficient method of successfully generating hair growth in nude mice.  It stated that this new method can be scaled up and therefore shows great potential for clinical applications in human hair regenerative therapy.

The team of scientists led by Dr. Tatsuto Kageyama and Prof. Junji Fukuda from Yokohama National University in Japan proposed a new approach to regenerate hair using mouse and human hair follicle stem cells.

According to the report, previous studies have shown improved results by transplanting, onto the backs of mice, a three-dimensional tissue culture called hair follicle germ (HFG).

The team fabricated hair beads (HBs) in u-shaped wells in a plate array using hair follicle stem cells encapsulated in collagen, a structural protein in skin believed to play an important role in hair follicle generation during embryonic development and hair regrowth throughout life. A suspension of mouse epithelial cells was then added into the wells containing the gel encapsulated hair beads.

After 24 hours, the researchers observed that the epithelial cells clumped together in a ball and adhered to the collagen gel. The collagen gel then contracted to form a “bead-based hair follicle germ” (bbHFG).

In order to test the efficiency of the hair bead approach, the scientists transplanted HBs and bbHFGs onto the backs of mice. They also transplanted hair follicle cell aggregates fabricated with two other methods onto the backs of nude mice as comparisons.

More Studies Required

The results showed that compared to the other methods, the collagen-enriched hair bead (bbHFG) approach produced a high rate of hair generation four weeks after being transplanted onto the skin of the mice. After comparing gene expression of hair-producing gene markers in the three different methods, they found that gene expression for almost all the hair producing gene markers was greater in the bbHFGs, suggesting that collagen enrichment and cell aggregation play an important role in promoting hair follicle stem cell development.

Dr. Kageyama and his team also investigated whether this method could be automated to mass produce hair follicle germs on the scale needed to be clinically feasible for hair regenerative treatment of patients suffering hair loss. According to them, further studies that use hair follicle stem cells derived from patients suffering from hair loss are also required.


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