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