Scientists might be able to offer "hair-challenged" males a new
glimmer of hope when it comes to reversing baldness.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania say they've come closer to
being able to use stem
cells to treat thinning hair, at least in mice.
The researchers said that although using stem cells to regenerate missing or
dying hair follicles is considered a potential way to reverse hair
loss, it hasn't been possible to create adequate numbers of hair-follicle-generating
stem cells, specifically cells of the epithelium, the name for tissues covering
the surface of the body.
But new findings indicate that this may now be achievable.
cells in hair can become skin
"This is the first time anyone has made scalable amounts of epithelial
stem cells that are capable of generating the epithelial component of hair
follicles," Dr Xiaowei Xu, an associate professor of dermatology at Penn's
Perelman School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
Those cells have many potential applications that extend to wound
and hair regeneration, Xu said.
In the new study, Xu's team converted induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – reprogrammed adult stem cells with many of the characteristics of embryonic
stem cells – into epithelial stem cells. This is the first time this has been
done in either mice or people, the researchers said.
The epithelial stem cells were mixed with certain other cells and implanted
into mice. They produced the outermost layers of skin cells and follicles that
are similar to human hair follicles, according to the study, which was
published in the journal Nature Communications. This suggests that these
cells might eventually help regenerate hair in people, the researchers said.
trial of human embryonic stem cells okayed
Xu said this achievement with iPSC-derived epithelial stem cells does not
mean that a treatment for baldness is around the corner. A hair follicle
contains both epithelial cells and a second type of adult stem cell called
"When a person loses hair, they lose both types of cells," Xu
said. "We have solved one major problem – the epithelial component of the
hair follicle. We need to figure out a way to also make new dermal papillae
cells, and no one has figured that part out yet."
Experts also note that studies conducted in animals often fail when tested
pattern baldness studied
to check for baldness
(Picture: Bald head from Shutterstock)