How Stem Cells Provide a Possible Cure for Baldness

Bald Man

The American Hair Loss Association states that about two in three men experience hair loss before age 35, but did you know that 40 percent of hair loss sufferers are women? This condition affects self image and emotional well-being, making it important to find an effective treatment. Unfortunately, hair loss has been difficult to treat, but new research brings American men and women great hope. What’s the source of this great hope? Hair-follicle-generating stem cells.

hair-loss

Using stem cells to re-grow hair has been viewed as a potential hair loss cure for awhile, but until now, no one has been able to produce enough cells. Research conducted at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania reveals the techniques used to convert adult skin cells into hair follicles. Allegedly, the Perelman team is the first to achieve such a promising result in mice and humans.

Lab Testing

How Stem Cells Provide a Possible Cure for Baldness - lab testing (Copy)

The process goes something like this:

  1. Researchers convert skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, by adding three genes to the cells. These stem cells are able to turn into any cell type in the body.
  2. Researchers convert the iPSCs into keratinocytes, the main type of cell found in the epidermis, or top layer of skin.
  3. Researchers force the keratinocytes to produce large quantities of epithelial stem cells, or EpSCs, which are naturally found in hair follicles. At the end of 18 days, 25 percent of the iPSCs are converted into EpSCs.
  4. When implanted in mice, the stem cells regenerate human skin cells and hair follicles. They even produce hair shafts, which is a promising step toward a hair loss cure in humans.

Human Testing?

By combining EpSCs from human skin cells and dermal cells from mice, researchers are able to graft the skin onto mice and produce a functioning human epidermis. The hair follicles that produce shafts of hair on these patches of grafted skin are structurally similar to human hair. This research is especially exciting when you realize that these cells may eventually not only cure baldness, but aid in cosmetic improvements and even wound healing.

However, the research involving stem cells and hair re-growth is not yet ready for human testing. The team has only answered half the question: how to regenerate epithelial cells. The second half of the question is how to regenerate dermal papillae, a different type of adult stem cell. Hair loss involves losing both types of cells.

Before human trials begin, researchers must perfect a way to grow dermal papillae cells. Fortunately, that may not be too far off, since an article in Medical New Today at the end of 2013 announced that scientists were attempting to grow human hairs from dermal papillae cells extracted from donor hair follicles. This suggests we’re one step closer to finding a hair loss cure at last!