Scientific breakthrough made for hair loss treatments
22nd October 2013
hair lossA new breakthrough by British scientists has raised hope for those suffering with hair loss, and the therapy may even provide help to victims of burns. The results of the tests could pave the way for more hair loss treatments for both men and women, after results demonstrated it was possible to grow new hair follicles from human skin cells - basically the cells that contain the ‘instruction book’ for growing new hair. Tests are still at an early stage, but the scientists from Durham University in the UK and Columbia University in the U.S. claim that their findings represent a huge breakthrough in treating hair loss that effects millions of men and women around the world, often causing a great deal of distress. Not only this, but it seems a 40-year wait could be over in the futile efforts to successfully regenerate the crucial structures in the skin that enable hair to grow. Human hair follicles are incredibly difficult to replicate in a laboratory environment, but the new technique has shown evidence they can be stimulated to grow in skin tissue and also to generate hair shafts. Currently, expensive hair transplants notoriously used by footballer Wayne Rooney involve the surgeon transplanting hair follicles from the back of the head (where there is plentiful hair) to where it is needed at the front. Therefore, they are simply redistributing already present hair compared to the new technique, which could significantly boost the amount of hairs on the head. Columbia University researcher Dr Angela Christiano, herself a sufferer of alopecia and experiences clumps of hair falling out, said the research “has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss”. “Our method…has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient's own cells. This could greatly expand the utility of hair-restoration surgery to women and to younger patients - now it is largely restricted to the treatment of male-pattern baldness in patients with stable disease. 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,” she said. The team of scientists started extracting tiny cells called dermal papillae from strips of human hair cells. These cells are located at the base of a hair and contain the ‘instruction book’ for the successful growth of new hair. Next, they cloned the cells in a dish, making sure they had several copies of each cell. Similar procedures have been done previously but without any results in getting the cells grow hair after they have been put back into skin. The Anglo-American team decided to turn the dish of cells upside down, to help them to form into the clumps found in nature. These clumps were transplanted into human skin grafted onto the backs of mice. It was found that the cells from each of the seven human donors grew hairs and in some cases, the tufts broke through the skin. Although the hairs were white in colour, Durham researcher Professor Colin Jahoda is optimistic it should be possible to create coloured hair and by using a sample of a person’s own cells, any new hair should be very similar in texture and curliness. “It's a key step because it is saying that you can multiply the process. It's not just about one-for-one replacement. But you need to get hair that is the right colour and texture and this will need further work before human clinical trials can begin,” he said. The cost to patients is still yet to be determined as clinical trials need to be carried out first. However, it is likely to be cheaper than hair transplants which can range anywhere in price from £6,000 all the way up to £30,000 per patient.