In a new study, scientists have used human pluripotent stem cells to grow new hair. The study by researchers of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) represents the first step towards the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss.
Associate professor Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., at Sanford-Burnham said that the new method they had developed to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth, was a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another. This stem cell method provided an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and wasn't limited by the availability of existing hair follicles.
The research 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.
Terskikh said that in adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties. They 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 research was published online in PLOS One.