In the first step toward the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss, US scientists have used human stem cells to generate new hair in the lab.
“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,” explained Alexey Terskikh, associate professor from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham).
The stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and is not limited by the availability of existing hair follicles, he added.
The team developed a protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells.
They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle.
Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture.
“In adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties,” Terskikh noted.
The team developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice.
The next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects,” Terskikh emphasised.
The research was published online in the journal PLOS One.