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Home > Articles > Cloning Cells: The Answer to Hair Loss?

Cloning Cells: The Answer to Hair Loss?

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

United States researchers recently created a hair restoration method to potentially grow new hair follicles using a patient’s own cells.

Professor Angela M. Christiano and her colleagues at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center commented that while other restoration methods redistribute hair from one part of the scalp to another, the new approach could expand the use of hair transplants for women with hair loss and men in the early stages of baldness.

“About 90 percent of women with hair loss are not strong candidates for hair transplantation surgery because of insufficient donor hair,” Christiano said in a statement. “This method offers the possibility of inducing large numbers of hair follicles or rejuvenating existing hair follicles, starting with cells grown from just a few hundred donor hairs. It could make hair transplantation available to individuals with a limited number of follicles, including those with female-pattern hair loss, scarring alopecia and hair loss due to burns.”

Co-director of the North East England Stem Cell Insitute, Colin Jahoda of England’s Durham University claimed that dermal papilla cells, or small nipple-like extensions in the human skin, lead to the formation of hair follicles and that this idea of cloning follicles using inductive dermal papilla cells has been around for about 40 years.

“However, once the dermal papilla cells are put into conventional, two-dimensional tissue culture, they revert to basic skin cells and lose their ability to produce hair follicles, Jahoda said in a statement.

The researchers speculated that unlike human papillae, rodent dermal papillae spontaneously aggregate in tissue culture. They cultured human papillae to encourage them to aggregate the same way in order to create the necessary conditions to induce hair growth in human skin.

Christiano and his colleagues harvested dermal papillae from seven human donors and cloned the cells in tissue culture with no additional growth factors added. The cultured papillae were then transplanted between the skin’s dermis and epidermis, which had been grafted onto the backs of mice. The transplants caused new hair growth that lasted at least six weeks in five of the seven tests.

“This approach has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss,” Christiano said.

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