Thinning hair? You're not alone.
Hair loss, aka alopecia, affects millions worldwide. In the U.S. more than 40 million men and 20 million women suffer from hereditary hair loss, and about 70% of men and 40% of women experience hair thinning as they age.
Hereditary hair loss occurs when hair follicles shrink. Hair follicles are sheaths of cells that surround the roots of our hair. Hair grows out of a follicle for 4 years. Follicles then hibernate and shed the hair. After a few months, they wake up and the cycle starts again.
In hereditary hair loss, this growth cycle is shortened. Each cycle produces shorter, thinner, and less visible hair. Eventually follicles stop growing hair altogether.
Pluripotent stem cells, the cells with the ability to turn into any other cell, are the answer.
Human hair is composed of two types of cells: epithelial cells, which make the hair shaft, and dermal papillae cells, which regulate the production of epithelial cells and hair growth. People with hereditary hair loss lose both cells.
Good news though. Using the inimitable abilities of pluripotent stem cells, scientists have successfully created both epithelial and dermal papilla cells in labs.
Xiaowei Xu, an associate professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, has mixed human epithelial stem cells with dermal papillae cells from mice, and grafted the combined cells onto the skin of hairless mice.
The mice produced human epidermis and hair follicles!
Xu says his research can treat hair loss in humans. His team has discovered a way to create epithelial stem cells, but now must figure out how to produce and multiply human dermal papillae cells on a large scale. His ultimate goal is to create a lab-made hair follicle.
"There is a lot of promise, but there is still a long way to go. But I think it's very much possible."
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|Tags: Treatment Options Stem Cell Research|