Hair follicles grown in a lab? Yes, scientists have finally succeeded in growing hair follicles under laboratory conditions for the first time ever, renewing hope that the cure for baldness is around the corner.
The science and other stuff to know
The primary formation of hair follicles takes place in the embryo, but scientists had so far been unable to understand the epidermal-mesenchymal interaction (EMI), a series of programmed, sequential, and reciprocal communications that result in the differentiation of one or both cell populations, well enough to reproduce follicles in the lab.
Hair growth is a result of “reciprocal interactions between epidermal and mesenchymal [mesodermal] layers”, according to the latest study published in Science Advances. Applying the same principle, scientists took cells from embryonic mice and managed the production of hair follicle organoids that grew hair.
To replicate the growth of organoids, a research team led by Yokohama National University’s Tatsuto Kageyama reproduced the interaction between the two layers by playing with the spacing of interacting cells. They kept readjusting the spacing until the organoids achieved the right configuration to spur hair follicle growth.
“The key approach is to modulate spatial distributions of epithelial and mesenchymal cells in their spontaneous organization,” the researchers wrote in the study.
They said embryonic skin cells from rodents were used “because of their shorter period of hair generation, higher hair-inducing activity, and availability compared to cells of human origin”.
The study’s findings have been incredibly positive. According to the researchers, hair shafts sprouted in vitro with almost 100% efficiency and reached a length of around 3 mm in culture.
For centuries, leading scientists of the world have run from pillar to post to understand the reasons for baldness and look for its cure. With this new development, science may finally have found a way to replace falling hair with new ones, even if it still can’t find a way to curb the loss of naturally growing hair.
Kageyama said the results were useful for understanding EMIs and hair follicle regeneration, adding that the next study would replace rodent cells with human fetal/neonatal skin cells. However, they added that it would be extremely challenging to culture human hair follicles with current technology.
Still, the researchers said the rapid advancements in molecular biology techniques could soon provide a solution to that problem.
To those fighting rapid hair loss, we say, hold on!