Researchers in Japan are the latest to advance developments in the area of hair regeneration as a potential method for treating hair loss
. And the aspect of their research that has caught the eye of the tabloids is the fact that a chemical found in McDonald's french fries plays an important role in the scientists' approach.
Published research findings in the Bio-Materials journal
detail the new methods for mass-producing hair follicle germs (HFGs). Whilst previous efforts have also managed to recreate follicles
capable of producing hair, this is the first time this type of bio-engineering has been successful on a large scale.
The McDonald's connection is a chemical named dimethylpolysiloxane, which was combined with human and mice stem cells during the research. This led to a flurry of excitement in the media that might have caused people to believe that eating more chips would result in sudden hair regrowth.
Unsurprisingly, that's not the story at all what the researchers have done is regrow hair on mice in a lab using a novel method that they claim to be much easier than others and, in tests, allowed for the production of 5,000 HFGs at the same time. The chemical that is found in fries is actually added to cooking oil to stop it from foaming, and is a key part of the process.
Whilst still early in the development phase, this Yokohama National University breakthrough could be significant as it may provide new treatment options for some hair loss conditions
that currently cause permanent baldness.
Using hair regeneration to cure baldness
Androgenetic alopecia more commonly referred to as male pattern baldness
and female pattern hair loss
is a common, and growing, concern worldwide. Now, as these types of hair loss are starting to not only become more prevalent in our ageing society, but are beginning to affect men and women from an increasingly early age
, the search for a cure as opposed to hair loss treatment
is hotting up.
Culture vessel for the mass preparation of hair follicle germs (above). Generated hairs on the back of a mouse (below).
Furthermore, there are a number of conditions that can cause baldness, either in specific patches or all over the scalp, which are currently untreatable. These include severe cases of traction alopecia
, a form of hairloss often caused by the over-wearing of tight hairstyles, which thanks to modern hairstyle trends is becoming ever more prolific.
The most significant area, however, is probably that of cicatricial alopecia
the umbrella term for a group of issues and illnesses that can cause permanent hair loss which is also known as 'scarring alopecia'. These can cause permanent baldness often in patches, though some can affect the whole scalp through inflammation which can be the result of varying factors, ranging from radiation to lupus
Whilst hair follicle regeneration - also known as hair replication - has been heralded as being 'five years away' for quite some time now, it does appear to be closer than ever. And for those who are unsuited to other treatment or surgical options of hair restoration, it can't come soon enough.
Technique may work on humans
If brand new, hair-producing HFGs could be generated in a lab and then injected into a scalp where needed, then the treatment landscape could be changed dramatically. And the Japanese team think that the technology which saw black hairs growing on mice could work on humans.
"The key for the mass production of HFGs was a choice of substrate materials for culture vessel," explains Professor Junji Fukuda of Yokohama National University. "We used oxygen-permeable dimethylpolysiloxane (PDMS) at the bottom of culture vessel, and it worked very well."
It also gave the newspapers something to write about, the prize for the best headline arguably going to the Daily Mail with "Short, back and fries".