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BALDNESS CURE? Scientists successfully regenerate hair on laboratory mice

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Baldness has been the bane of many a mans' existence. A man's once youthful look begins to slide as soon as more and more hair begins to wind itself down the bathroom sink, leaving unsightly bald patches. The cure is usually the purchase of a toupee, or just shaving the head bald for a clean, uniform look. There may be hope for the "follically challenged" - scientists have successfully regrown hair in laboratory mice using their subject's very own cells.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - In the most recent tests, researchers have used a type of human skin cell to generate new hair follicles, which are the structures beneath the skin's surface that grow hair.

Much more research is needed to improve the technique. Researchers say that the follicles generated in the study usually did not sprout hair that could grow all the way to the skin's surface.

Once the technique is perfected, it could have advantages over existing hair-loss treatments. Medical treatment used to treat baldness today either work by slowing the loss of hair follicles, stimulating the growth of existing hairs or moving hair from one part of the body to another - commonly called "hair transplantation."

Women with hair loss or patients with burns usually don't respond as well to these methods as they have  limited amount of follicles. The new method, however requires very few existing hairs in order to work.

Study researcher Angela M. Christiano, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center says the new technique could make hair transplantation available to more patients.

Obtaining cells called dermal papilla cells, which give rise to hair follicles, cells from seven people with pattern baldness were used by researchers. The dermal papilla cells were cultured in such a way that they were allowed to grow in three-dimensional space, in lieu of the two-dimensional petri dish.

Once these cells grew into spherical droplets, they were transplanted into human skin that had been grafted onto the backs of mice, made from the foreskin of infants, which does not contain hair or hair follicles.

In five of the seven samples, the cells produced new hair follicles to grow in the skin graft. A DNA test confirmed that these hair follicles were a successful genetic match with the donors'.

"I think it's fabulous," Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said of the study. "The fact that they can have neogenesis (regeneration) of hair...is really the future of modern medicine."

Treating baldness with transplantation, Green says "You have to take follicles from one area of the head and transplant them to another area of the head...It limits what you can do for your hair."

The study's findings regarding hair follicle generation were in some ways not surprising, because they confirm what has been suggested by earlier research. But the genetic analysis of dermal papilla cells is new and unique, however, and may help researchers better understand "the molecular underpinnings for why cells are able to make a follicles," Dr. George Cotsarelis, chair of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine says.

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