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Is 3D Printing The Baldness Cure We've Been Waiting For?
by April Maguire
Over the last several years, 3D printing has revolutionized a wide variety of industries. The ability of companies and consumers to create three-dimensional objects has changed the face of manufacturing. And now this same technology could be used to solve one of the most widespread medical problems in the world: hair loss.
Printing Hair On Demand
At the center of this new revolution is L'Oreal, one of the most highly regarded cosmetic companies in the world. For this new endeavor of printing hair to combat baldness, the cosmetics giant is partnering with a company called Poietis. Based in France, Poietis is focused on 3D printing biological, cell-based objects. The company creates living tissue the way that other 3D printing companies create mass-manufactured goods.
While this practice of 3D printing biological material may seem like something out of a science fiction movie, it's actually already happening out in the real world. In fact, L'Oreal uses 3D-printed skin to test its newest products, so it makes sense for them to be on the cutting edge of hair creation as well.
Poietis's method of 3D printing consists of an intricate, multi-step process. First, the scientists create a digital map of where living cells should be placed in order to create the biological object in question. Next, this map is used by the printing equipment, which sets down small droplets of a cell-based "bio ink" which will serve as the basis for printing. Finally, a laser is bounced off a mirror and through a lens, and when the beam hits the bio ink, a drop of organic matter is formed.
Once the biological material is printed, it needs time to grow. In general, it takes roughly ten minutes to grow a small piece of skin. But since hair follicles are much more complex, the process is estimated to take longer. And after the process is complete, the scientists say that you could have new hair follicles that are ready for implantation.
All Still Theoretical
Creating hair in this way may sound amazing, but unfortunately the scientists at Poietis are still in the planning phases. Currently, they estimate that it will still be another two to three years before they can successfully create hair. And even once 3D printing hair becomes possible, there will still be a number of barriers.
For starters, there is still the question of how these new follicles can be implanted so that they continue to grow new hair throughout the patient's lifetime. Additionally, the cost is likely to be prohibitive, meaning that only a small percentage of people suffering from hair loss will be able to take advantage of the technology.
Still, when it comes to fighting hair loss, any progress is positive, and there's no telling what sorts of new innovations this line of research could lead to.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hair loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!