Hair loss affects up to two in five men and can harm their mental health (Credit: Getty)
A cure for baldness could be on the horizon after hair cells were generated in a lab.
Scientists grew fully mature follicles with long shafts and added a drug that boosted melanin, a natural pigment, to improve the colour.
The technique involves creating skin organoids – tiny, simple versions of an organ – in a Petri dish.
Lead author Dr Tatsuto Kageyama, of Yokohama National University in Japan, said: ‘Organoids were a promising tool to elucidate the mechanisms in hair follicle morphogenesis in vitro.’
Hair loss affects up to two in five men and can lead to harm for mental health. As maintaining a youthful appearance has become a critical feature of the digital world.
It is important in dating app snaps, Instagram selfies or even corporate headshot on LinkedIn.
Is a cure for baldness on the horizon? (Credit: Getty)
Using two types of embryonic cells, the Japanese team developed hair shafts with almost 100 percent efficiency.
The organoids produced fully mature follicles about 3 mm in length after 23 days of culture.
As growth occurred, the researchers monitored formation and pigmentation – shedding fresh light on chemicals involved in the process.
The findings published in the journal Science Advances also have implications for animal testing and drug screening. By transplanting the organoids, they achieved regeneration with repeating hair cycles.
Hair follicles were implanted in the skin of mice. Hair shafts appeared 30 days following transplantation and hair regrowth and hair loss were repeated at 3-4-week intervals for at least 10 months. (Credit: AAAS)
Dr Kageyama said: ‘The model could prove valuable for better understanding of hair follicle induction, for evaluating hair pigmentation and hair growth drugs, and for regenerating hair follicles.’
Results could also be relevant to other organ systems and contribute to the understanding of how physiological and pathological processes develop.
Looking ahead to future research, the team plans to optimise their organoid culture system with human cells.
Co author Professor Junji Fukuda said: ‘Our next step is to use cells from human origin, and apply for drug development and regenerative medicine.’
Future research could open the door to developing fresh treatments for hair loss disorders, such as male pattern baldness.
The same principles could one day be harnessed to grow replacement teeth, or other organs as every hair is a tiny little organ.
The hair follicle, hair bulb, and hair papilla seen on a human scalp at 25X magnification (Credits: Getty Images)
Former tennis star Andre Agassi described his hair loss as a young man as like losing ‘little pieces of my identity’.
Young people are more conscious about their appearance than ever before. Baldness can begin between the ages of 20 and 25.
Around half of women over the age of 65 suffer from female pattern baldness. We still understand little about the molecular mechanisms behind hair growth and loss.
Each hair follicle on our scalp is a miniature organ, which follows its own rhythmic cycle of growth, regression and rest throughout our lifetimes.
With age, some of them become sensitive to hormones on the scalp, most notably dihydrotestosterone or DHT, which binds to the follicles and miniaturises them until they no longer produce visible hair.
However, we know hardly anything about how this miniaturisation process happens, or how to prevent it.
Dr Kageyama and colleagues say they have moved a step closer to finding out.
Fully mature hair follicles have been produced in Japan.