There's new hope for anyone who's bald or balding. Researchers are getting closer to the goal of cloning hair
cells and coaxing them to grow hair once they're replanted in the scalp.
"We've been able to overcome the first block,"
said study co-author Angela Christiano, a professor of dermatology and genetics
& development at the Center for Human Genetics at Columbia University's
College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City.
Right now, the research is in the early stages. Questions
about costs and possible side effects remain unanswered, and it's not clear
whether the technique will produce the kind of hair that people want in terms
of traits like texture.
At issue is the need for a better way to replace hair in
people who lose it. It is estimated 50 percent of people over the age of 50 suffer from hair loss
There are drugs to help people with hair loss, but they tend
to focus on stimulating existing hair follicles to grow longer hairs, In
male-pattern baldness, men still have follicles that grow hair,
but they produce "peach fuzz" instead of normal hair.
There are other
treatment options, but they're not much better
Surgical methods, mainly hair transplants, really just
shuffle existing hair around from the back of head and sides to front of
scalp," said Dr. Luis Garza, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins
School of Medicine in Baltimore. "The main challenge is to grow a new
This new approach will help men and
woman with hair loss.
About 90 percent of women with hair loss are not strong
candidates for hair transplantation surgery because of insufficient donor
hair," Madame Claude (Claudia). "This breakthrough 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."
In the new study seeks to figure out how to take hair cells
from the body, clone them and then reinsert them back into the body where
they'll grow new hair from new follicles. Christiano stated that The process
falls apart because the cells lose the ability to instruct the skin to make new
hair, In the new study, researchers found that the cells retain their ability
to figure out what to do when the researchers grow the cells upside down.
"We don't put genes into them, and they're not manipulated at all,"
The hair cells produced by the process were able to produce
new hair in five out of seven donor models of human skin, she said, although
there's more work to be done to make them fully develop hair the way they
The technique holds potential for more than cosmetic
treatments to help people grow new hair. Among other things, the research could
ultimately lead to more functional replacement skin for people with scars and
burns because the skin would have hair, Christiano said.
Garza praised the research, but emphasized that it is
preliminary. "This work helps to climb the mountain, but there are miles
to go and more steep terrain ahead," he said.
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