We’re Using Stem Cells to Reverse Baldness and It’s Actually Working


Some very hairy mice are bringing us another
step closer to un-LOCKing a way to regenerate a full head of hair. Did somebody say a pun?! About 50% of men and 25% of women experience
at least partial hair loss by the age of 50, whether due to age, medical treatments, or
disease. Current options for those looking to reverse
this loss include things like medications that may slow hair loss and transplants from
hair follicles elsewhere on the body. But neither have the often desired effect
of restoring a thick and full volume of hair. Researchers have been optimizing techniques
for culturing “hair follicle germs” in a dish for years. There are 2 key types of cells that help hair
follicles develop before we’re born — epithelial cells that help us create skin, and mesenchymal
cells that help us create a variety of connective tissues — so researchers copied this strategy
from the embryo into the lab and they got hair follicles to grow! Though, these techniques were never high yield
enough to produce the amount of follicles needed to restore a full head of hair — to
its previous luxurious glory — until now… Recently, Japanese researchers made improvements
to this protocol, and then designed a special, oxygen-permeable mini-chip to scale up the
farming of follicles, growing up to ~5000 at once. The “chip” isn’t like a computer chip
— it’s a tiny polymer structure with little wells in it. They grow the follicles, add a collagen and
mesh layer for easy handling, and transplant right to the head where hopefully, it takes
hold and grows like normal hair. They showed that transplanting these follicles
onto immunodeficient mice led to lots of new hairs being formed within just 18 days! They could easily transfer cells from their
chip to a collagen matrix for uniform transplant with follicles nice and evenly spaced out,
which would make for practical harvesting when it comes time to transplant cells grown
with these chips onto humans. While these engineers made big progress in
the scale-up and efficiency of growing hair follicles on a chip, their tests WERE all
done with immune-deficient mice. But it’s not always a great idea to suppress
a human’s immune system. It leaves them vulnerable to infections. So, each patient would need their own personal
source of hair follicles… Fortunately, hair follicles contain stem cells
capable of regenerating new hairs, among other cells. Meaning that perhaps in the future instead
of transplanting follicles from another part of the body, scientists can take a few follicles
from a patient, expand them in culture, then transplant way more back onto your bald spot! So, for those waiting eagerly for solutions,
they’re coming! Keep putting sunscreen on the back of your
head. We have the machinery, scientists just need
a little more time to figure out the cells that’ll grow in them. Before you go, everyone. This is SAM! Sam is going to be on the channel more often
from now on, she’s amazing she studies neurobiology and I predict — like hair — she’s going to grow on you! That is an excellent/horrible pun. Hi everyone! I’m super excited, I will need to up my
pun game for sure. Your puns are great. You can also find sam on instagram Yep! I’m @Science.Sam and I talk about
my work in Neuroscience and other science communication topics all the time. Thanks for watching! Did you know that we shared our DNA with neanderthals? And they shared it with us too, if you know what we mean. Watch this video to learn more? Did you know theres a special word for something that produces hair? It’s called trichogenic, and insects and other arthropods have these cells too. Thanks again for watching Seeker!