Japanese Scientists Develop Artificial Skin That Can Grow Hair
added 11th April 2016
Japanese scientists have made a major breakthrough that could have serious ramifications for people with hair loss, particularly those with baldness caused by the likes of Alopecia Universalis and Cicatricial Alopecia.
By using stem cell technology and IPS cells as well as the Wntb10b signalling molecule, researchers at Kobe’s RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology have managed to create lab-grown skin that replicates the full organ. This artificial skin is so realistic it features fatty tissue, sweat glands and functioning hair follicles which were observed actively growing hair in bald mice during the trials.
This momentous feat, which has been widely reported across the world’s media, is the work of Dr Takashi Tsuji and his team, whose findings from mouse-based studies have been published in full in the respected Science Advances journal.
“Up until now, artificial skin development has been hampered by the fact that the skin lacked the important organs, such as hair follicles and glands, which allow the skin to play its important role in regulation,” states Dr Tsuji. “With this new technique, we have successfully grown skin that replicates the function of normal tissue. Our study contributes to the development of bioengineering technologies that will enable future regenerative therapies for patients with burns, scars, and alopecia.”
The fact that these scientists were able to fully replicate active hair follicles and implant them into their artificial skin using the FUT hair transplant method means this discovery should give a huge boost to those with even the most severe hair loss conditions.
Cicatricial alopecia, also known as ‘scarring alopecia’ as it is generally caused when the hair follicles are destroyed by inflammation often through burns, radiation or illness, currently has no viable, truly effective treatment options. In some cases hair restoration surgery may be possible but this depends on the extent of the damage done and whether there is donor hair of a suitable quality available to be transplanted.
In the more extreme cases of Alopecia Areata, namely Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis where there is no hair left on the head at all, hair transplants are not an option and treatment has a very low success rate.
For conditions like these where, for many, the only real choices at present are to accept their baldness or wear a wig, this kind of breakthrough could be life-changing. Given the possibility of being able to create and implant hair follicles now exists, despite more trials being needed to confirm the technique’s wide-ranging safety and effectiveness, it is more than likely that this knowledge will also be used to develop the next generation of genetic hair loss treatments. That way, men and women with thinning hair could soon have a one-off solution to this hereditary concern rather than following currently clinically-approved hair loss treatment courses – those featuring minoxidil, plus Propecia / finasteride 1mg for men – which are designed to be used on an on-going basis.