Pluripotent stem cells – cells that can develop into any other type of cell – may hold the key to a cure for baldness in humans.
Although baldness is not a life threatening illness, it can cause serious esteem issues and problems for men and women who are dealing with it. Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California are developing a method of converting these stem cells into cells that are capable of initiating hair growth.
“We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. 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 lead researcher Alexey Terskikh. “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.”
The scientists have developed pluripotent stem cells into neural crest cells that can be developed into cells on the human head. These cells create brain cells, bone, cartilage or muscle cells. These neural crest cells are grown into dermal papillae cells that control follicle formation.
The cells were then transplanted into hairless rats and the rats were able to grow human hair. The hair grows in a haphazard pattern, sticking out at different angles and in different directions.
“So it might be a little messy,” said Terskikh. “But I figure that people will prefer messy hair over a lack of it.”
Although the research is still at an early stage, the scientists are confident that the use of pluripotent cells could lead to a breakthrough in hair loss treatment. The cellular based treatment would no longer rely on expensive and time consuming hair transplants and there is an unlimited source of the cells to work with.
“The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” Terskikh said in a news release. “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.”