Stem cell research has long been touted as a likely route to the first ever hair loss
cure for androgenetic alopecia.
may be stealing the limelight thanks to the drug suite's promising developments in the area of autoimmune alopecia
, with plans to develop into genetic hair loss. Now though, a new breakthrough in the USA has put stem cells back at the forefront of new hair loss treatment news.
This is not actually in terms of stem cell treatments curing baldness, however. It is thanks to scientists discovering how to produce lab-grown 'hairy skin' on which to better test future drugs.
Hairy skin grown from mouse stem cells
Scientists at the Indiana University School of Medicine used stem cells taken from mice to create lab-grown skin tissue which developed functioning hair follicles.
is not a new phenomenon in the area of hair loss research, however, the Indianapolis trial is significant due to its impressive outcome.
Research published on 2nd January 2018 in the Cell medical journal
, shows that this is the first time that the final result has produced such successful results. Both the upper and lower layers of skin were reproduced, with hair follicles then forming then naturally growing hair. Previous attempts have resulted in hairless skin being created.
The hair grows just as it would in mice, meaning the results are more akin to natural hair. As such, this lab-grown 'hairy skin' may be used to test potential hair loss treatments on in future. This is clearly a positive step and particularly good news for those keen to see an end to animal testing.
Discovered whilst investigating deafness cure
This latest development relies on pluripotent stem cells
and was discovered when the American university team was investigating cures for deafness. Continues below...
Diagrams showing the spontaneous development of hair follicle bulbs in the Indiana study. To view the full range of images and diagrams showing how the skin and hair follicles were created, visit the Cell journal's dedicated page, here.
After using these transformative pluripotent stem cells to recreate an inner ear in culture - complete with skin cells and inner ear tissue - the team successfully experimented with getting these organoids - miniature versions of organs - to grow hair follicles.
"To date, generation of hair follicles in vitro
has only been possible using primary cells isolated from embryonic skin, cultured alone or in a co-culture with stem cell-derived cells, combined with in vivo
transplantation," the trial findings state. Adding, in the published research paper, that their work has allowed them to, "describe the derivation of skin organoids, constituting epidermal and dermal layers, from a homogeneous population of mouse pluripotent stem cells in a 3D culture. [And] show that skin organoids spontaneously produce de novo
hair follicles in a process that mimics normal embryonic hair folliculogenesis. This in vitro
model of skin development will be useful for studying mechanisms of hair follicle induction, evaluating hair growth or inhibitory drugs, and modelling skin diseases."
Hair loss treatments discovered 'by accident'
This is by no means the only medical discovery to be come about almost by accident. Both of the only clinically-proven, MHRA and FDA-approved genetic hair loss treatments
were found to have positive effects on hair growth after initially being used to treat other medical conditions.
The oral male pattern baldness
pill which is both MHRA licensed and FDA approved for this purpose - finasteride 1mg
- started out as an enlarged prostate treatment. It was discovered to have the potential to treat men's hair loss when those taking larger doses of the drug for benign hyperplasia started to see their previously thinning hair
grow back. The drug was then developed into a male pattern hair loss treatment for medically-suitable men aged 18 years and over, at the lower 1mg dose.
, which is a unisex treatment, and the only MHRA licensed and FDA approved treatment for both male and female pattern hair loss
, is a vasodilator which was originally used to treat high blood pressure and taken as an oral tablet. After patients started growing unwanted hair, its potential as a hair growth stimulant was explored and topical formulations were developed to treat genetic hair loss in both men and women.
Whilst this new discovery from the Indiana University School of Medicine has clear benefits for the hair loss industry, with regards future clinical trials, it will also be useful to many other areas of medicine, including cancer research.