Scientists have grown hair follicles in Petri dishes, suggesting baldness could one day be a thing of the past.
Boffins at Japan's Yokohama National University used embryonic skin cells from mice to engineer the potential scientific breakthrough, controlling the spatial arrangement of two different types of cells which determine how hair follicles develop.
The research is in its early stages and the procedure has not been tested using human cells – but the team hopes that the lab-grown follicles could be grafted onto a balding person's head and allow them to grow back lost hair.
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Eventually, the technique may help tackle common medical conditions that cause hair loss, including male pattern baldness and alopecia, MailOnline reports.
More than 80% of men experience hair loss throughout their lifetime, while nearly half of women report being affected by the phenomenon.
It is so common that by 35, two-thirds of men report suffering from hair loss.
It is hoped the study will not only help people get their full head of hair back, but will boost self-esteem and prevent more serious outcomes that hair loss can trigger, including anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal.
Researchers altered the arrangement of epithelial and mesenchymal cells, which can interact with each other to allow hair follicles to develop.
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Epithelial cells are a type of cell that covers the surfaces of the body, both inside and out, while Mesenchymal cells are found in bone marrow and are vital for making and repairing skeletal tissues – but have plenty of other potential uses.
Scientists also added a low concentration of Matrigel, which has been used for more than 40 years in different cell culture applications.
The lab-grown follicles were then implanted into the skin of mice, and went on to generate more follicles, "implicating that [hair follicle germs] have hair neogenesis capability."
The implanted follicles generated more hair follicles and hair shafts with almost 100% efficiency and grew around 3mm of hair shaft in just 23 days – meaning the treatment, if it works in humans, would be almost foolproof.
The research team now says the next step, is to recreate the experiment using human cells – but fear there may be some ethical concerns over harvesting human cells that could stand in their way.
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