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Cloning hair could offer a potential cure for baldness

Male-pattern baldness and hair loss have impacted people for centuries, as records of remedies for baldness date back to Ancient Egypt. 

While drugs like Propecia and Rogaine are effective at slowing hair loss, science has yet to find a treatment that completely reverses the balding process. 

But now, there’s promising new evidence that stem cell therapy and 3-D printing could offer an innovative solution to balding.

Balding begins when a hair follicle goes dormant. The human scalp contains around 100,000 hair follicles, and the actual strand of hair is produced thanks to stem cells located at the base of the follicle called dermal papillae. 

At the root of the follicle, blood vessels help create cells which stimulates the hair protein growth. As the hair strand gets pushed up through the skin, it dies, but the hair at the root of the follicle keeps growing. 

Over time, follicles on the head will grow dormant and hair growth ceases. There has been a growing interest in findings way to generate new hair and reverse hair loss with cell therapy. 

Cell therapy involves taking stem cells from a person and using those to generate new treatments explicitly catered for that individual. 

One cell therapy company, a startup called Stemson Therapeutics, is working on cloning hair follicles. Hair strands are grown or farmed using the stem cells from an individual’s blood, and these young and vigorous follicles are implanted near the dormant follicle. 

Stemson Therapeutics has successfully cloned and implanted hair into a mouse, but the company is about a year and a half away from human clinical trials. 

Researchers from Columbia University have found a way to 3-D print a mold meant to hold follicles and the dermal papillae. 

“For a long time, we’ve been saying this is ten years away,” Robert Bernstein, a dermatologist in Manhattan who specializes in hair transplantation, told the Atlantic. “But now it actually might be less.”

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer 

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

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