Stem cell research has long been touted as a likely route to the first ever hair loss cure for androgenetic alopecia.
JAK inhibitors 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.
Cell regeneration 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…
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 commonly referred to as Propecia, due to that being the medication’s only licensed brand name in the UK and USA until October 2014, but which is actually the drug 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.
Minoxidil, which is a unisex treatment, cleared for use on 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. Although it has only been tested and cleared by the UK and US medical regulators in relation to androgenetic alopecia, Belgravia has found that suitable applications of high strength minoxidil can also be beneficial to other hair loss conditions, including scalp-only alopecia areata, as part of a personalised treatment plan.
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.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.