Scientific research is often the quintessential example of taking something apart to learn how it works. A team of researchers has used that age-old technique to unwind the complex process by which embryonic cells organize into functional skin that includes “organoids” like hair follicles. By untangling this biological mystery, they were able to develop a model that could potentially lead to hair regeneration treatments and other advances in regenerative medicine. The study — “Self-organization process in newborn skin organoid formation inspires strategy to restore hair regeneration of adult cells” — was published in the August 22nd, 2017 issue of the journal PNAS.
Lei M, et al. 2017
New research has found that embryonic stem cells can be used to form a type of cell that induces new hair follicle growth, and that these cells promote robust hair growth when implanted into mice.
Gnedeva K, et al. 2015
New research published in the journal Developmental Cell has confirmed the importance of dermal sheath stem cells in maintaining the hair growth cycle. These cells, located around the lower portion of growing follicles, form the basis of an experimental treatment, being developed by Replicel Life Sciences, Inc., to regenerate hair-producing follicles. If successful, the treatment will be a game-changer for the hair restoration industry.
Rahmani W, et al. 2014
Dr. Claire Higgins and her colleague Dr. Colin Jahoda have published an overview of hair cloning and the challenges scientists face in attempting to develop hair regeneration therapies for androgenetic alopecia, or common balding. The article, published in Hair Transplant Forum International, points to two central problems in developing a hair loss therapy. The first is the difficulty in getting dermal papilla cells in humans to self-aggregate and form hair follicles and the second is the inability, thus far, of scientists to generate normal hairs and follicles.
Higgins C, et al. 2014
Progress towards hair cloning may have just have shifted up another gear thanks to scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The breakthrough study published January 28th, 2014 is the first to show the successful transformation of adult human skin cells into quantities of epithelial stem cells necessary for hair regeneration.
The researchers, led by Dr. Xiaowei “George” Xu, started with human skin cells called dermal fibroblasts, then transformed those into a type of stem cell called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These were then transformed into epithelial stem cells (EpSCs). This important step had never been achieved before in either humans or mice. The epithelial stem cells were combined with mouse dermal cells, that can be induced to form hair follicles, and then grafted on a mouse host. The epithelial cells and dermal cells then grew to form a functional human epidermis and follicles structurally similar to human hair follicles. The exhibits that accompany the study include photographic evidence of human hairs.
Yang R, et al. 2014
For four decades, scientists have known about the possibility of using cells derived from the base of hair follicles (dermal papilla cells) to stimulate the growth of new hair. More recently, researchers have been able to harvest dermal papillae, multiply them, and induce the creation of new hair follicles – but only in rats. Now, for the first time, scientists at Columbia University have shown that they can induce new human hair growth from cloned human papillae. This procedure, called “hair follicle neogenesis,” has the potential to solve one of the primary limitations in today’s surgical hair restoration techniques; namely, the patient’s finite donor hair supply that is available for transplantation.
A significant number of hair loss patients do not have enough donor hair to be candidates for a hair transplant procedure with the percentage of women lacking stable donor hair greater than in men. This technique would enable both men and women with limited donor reserves to benefit from hair transplant procedures and enable current candidates to achieve even better results.
According to co-study leader Angela M. Christiano, Ph.D., of Columbia University in New York, the ground-breaking publication is a “substantial step forward” in hair follicle neogenesis. While the technology still needs further development to be clinically useful, the implications of successfully inducing new hair follicles to grow from cloned hair cells could be a game-changer in the arena of hair restoration. Instead of moving hair follicles from the donor area to the recipient area, as in a hair transplant, follicular neogenesis involves the creation of new follicles, literally adding more follicles to the scalp rather than merely transplanting them from one part of the scalp to another.
Higgins C, et al. 2013
We have previously discussed Dr. Angela Christiano’s work on hair loss genetics with her team at Columbia University in New York. A review of the 16th annual meeting of the European Hair Research Society brings to our attention new research being conducted by a scientist who works at Dr. Christiano’s laboratory, Dr. Claire Higgins.
Dr. Higgins is studying the inductive properties of the dermal papilla (DP), which is a group of cells that form the structure directly below each hair follicle.
Higgins C, et al. 2012
Japanese researchers have demonstrated that scientists can bioengineer viable, hair-producing follicles from epithelial stem cells and dermal papilla cells. Using these components, the team produced follicles that exhibit both the normal hair cycle and piloerection (the reflex contraction of a tiny muscle in the hair follicles which creates what is commonly referred to as “goose bumps”). The bioengineered follicles also developed the normal structures found within follicles and formed natural connections with skin tissues, muscle cells, and nerve cells.
Toyoshima K, et al. 2012
The study is in progress, but analysis of the 6-month interim results of the first phases have been published. As indicated in the graphic above, the preliminary results at 6 months show that vellus hair density has increased 24.9%, terminal hair density has increased 14.5%, overall hair density increased by 19.2%, and cumulative thickness per area increased by 15.4%.
Also, almost two-thirds of subjects (10 subjects out of 16, or 63%) received a greater than 5% increase in hair density at the injection site. Of that group of 10 subjects, 7 of them saw hair density improve by more than 10%, with the biggest improvement in hair density being an increase of 19.6% in one subject.
Lortkipanidze N, et al. 2012
RepliCel Life Sciences; a company based in Vancouver, Canada; is investigating hair cloning techniques in order to develop a treatment for androgenetic alopecia, or common genetic hair loss.
Research conducted by the company’s scientific founders and lead scientists, Drs. Kevin McElwee and Rolf Hoffmann, has shown that a certain type of cell, called a dermal sheath cup cell, is integral in initiating the growth of mature hair follicles. This mechanism of follicle growth, when coupled with previous research on dermal papillae cells, is key to our understanding of hair loss and is a potential avenue for developing a treatment that could reverse hair loss.
McElwee KJ, et al. 2003
Summary of “Hair Regrowth Following a Wnt- and Follistatin-Containing Treatment: Safety and Efficacy in a First-in-man Phase 1 Clinical Trial,” which was originally published in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (Volume 10, Issue 11).
Researchers were aware of the importance of follistatin, a binding protein; Wnt 7a, a signaling protein; and wound healing factors on hair growth. In this study, researchers tested the safety and efficacy of an injection of a mixture of naturally derived molecules on hair growth.
The mixture called the Hair Stimulating Complex (HSC), contained follistatin, as well as keratinocyte growth factor (KGF), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The mixture also showed activity similar to the Wnt signaling protein.
Zimber MP, et al. 2011
Following some new research on stem cells, and their relationship with androgenetic alopecia (genetic hair loss), an article on stem cells and the way they organize hair growth was published in the April 29th issue of the journal Science. At issue is the way in which large numbers of stem cells coordinate the cycle of hair growth over thousands of hair follicles. How do all of those hair follicle stem cells know when to grow hair, and how do they know what their “neighbor” hair follicles are doing?
Chuong C, et al. 2011
In the March/April 2011 issue of Hair Transplant Forum International, we see a review of research on stem cells and progenitor cells, and another indication of the importance of this research in achieving the goal of being able to clone human hair. Read more about this exciting line of research.
Hair Transplant Forum International 2011
Scientists from Durham University in the UK have shown for the first time that a lab technique, called a three-dimensional cell culture, can produce spherical structures that are similar to naturally occurring structures in hair follicle formation (called dermal papilla or DP). This breakthrough study by Claire Higgins and Colin Jahoda, published in the June 2010 issue of the journal Experimental Dermatology, has the potential to unlock the ability of researchers to develop functional DP cells which can be used in hair restoration techniques such as hair cloning or hair multiplication.
Higgins C, et al. 2010
Hair cloning is one of the most hotly discussed topics in the field of hair transplantation today. “When will hair cloning become available?” and “How will it work?” are among the most frequently asked questions about treating hair loss that we receive at Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration.
New developments in regenerative medicine technology, presented at the 18th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society for Hair Restoration (ISHRS), may have opened the door to commercialization and medical use of new techniques which could provide an answer to both questions.
ACell, Inc., a company based in Columbia, Maryland, has developed and refined what they consider, “the next generation of regenerative medicine.”
For more information on this exciting development, view our page on ACell technology and hair cloning
Follow news and updates on our Hair Cloning News page.
Two new avenues of scientific research, discussed in an article in the New York Times, might just help enable human beings to regenerate tissue. If we could tap into this capability, the possibilities for medical treatment are limitless. We could regrow an arm, a leg, a hand, repair a heart after a heart attack, or even regrow hair.
It is not a stretch to assume that if scientists can undo the inability of animals to grow heart muscle or limbs, we might someday be able to genetically reverse the inability of a bald person to grow hair.
A new study, using hair cloning therapy to regrow hair, shows promise for all individuals suffering from alopecia areata. The study — conducted by Marwa Fawzi, a dermatologist at the University of Cairo Faculty of Medicine, and reported on Bloomberg.com — used stem cells from the scalps of eight children with alopecia areata to regenerate their own hair.
Through this study, it was shown that the signaling pathways introduced by the administration of noggin and sonic hedgehog alone were insufficient to develop a hair follicle. When Laminin-511 protein was introduced to the tissue culture, the dermal papilla developed. When the protein was inhibited, hair follicle growth again ceased. This information supports prior studies suggesting that Laminin is critical in the early stages of follicle cell development and is required for continued follicle development and growth.
Follicular cell implantation (FCI) is based on the ability of the dermal papilla (DP) cells, found at the bottom of hair follicles, to stimulate new hairs to form. DP cells can be grown and multiplied in culture, so that a very small number of cells can produce enough follicles to cover an entire bald scalp.
In order to produce new follicles, two types of cells must be present. The first are Keratinocytes, the major cell type in the hair follicle, and the second are dermal papillae cells (DP) which lie in the upper part of the dermis, just below the hair follicle. It appears that the DP cells can induce the overlying keratinocytes to form hair follicles. There are a number of proposed techniques for hair regeneration that use combinations of cells that are implanted in the skin. The two major techniques involve either transplanting dermal papillae cells by themselves into the skin, or implanting them with keratinocytes.
A major advance in regenerative medicine has recently been announced. A new technique, which can convert adult skin cells into embryonic form, has been successfully performed on interbred mice by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University. The technique, if adaptable to human cells could allow new heart, liver, or kidney cells to be regenerated from simple skin cells. This tissue could potentially replace organ tissue that has been damaged due to disease. As this tissue would be formed from the patient’s own skin cells, it would not be subject to rejection by the patient’s immune system.
The advantage of using embryonic stem cells in cloning research, organ transplantation, and in finding cures for disease, is that these cells are basically “unprogrammed.” This means that the stem cell has not yet determined what it will grow to become so, in theory at least, scientists can manipulate them into becoming anything that they are programmed to be.
Two teams of scientists working independently announced that they had successfully replicated the biological abilities of the embryonic stem cell using only skin cells.
This study demonstrates that after wounding the skin of an adult mouse, an embryonic-like change in the epidermal cells outside of the hair follicle stem cells can be induced to form new hair follicle stem cells. In other words, these cells originate from epidermal skin cells in the wound, but then are able take on the characteristics of hair follicle stem cells and actually produce hair.
The British Government has awarded Intercytex a grant to automate the production of their new hair regeneration therapy. Intercytex is a cell therapy company that develops products to restore and regenerate skin and hair. Intercytex has partnered with a private company, The Automation Partnership (TAP), to develop an automated manufacturing process for their novel hair multiplication treatment.
An English based company called Intercytex has claimed some success in its research on hair cloning with its first testing in humans. This technique is similar to the one initially proposed by Dr. Colin Jahoda and published in 1999.
The idea is that certain cells (called fibroblasts) found at the bottom of hair follicles can be separated from the follicles after they have been removed from the scalp, and then be used to form new follicles.
This study also demonstrated that the Hedgehog agonist is active in human scalp in vitro as measured by Hedgehog pathway gene expression. The results suggest that topical application of a Hedgehog agonist could be effective in treating hair loss conditions, including male and female pattern genetic hair loss.