It might not be at the same level as solving world hunger, but there are plenty of people around the world waiting for an effective treatment for baldness. Researchers from Yokohama National University have given new hope to these people by growing up to 5,000 hair follicle germs (HFGs) in the lab, which is the largest scale to date.

HFGs are the reproductive source of hair follicles, the small organs that grow and maintain the hair, but mass producing them in the lab has proven difficult for researchers, who up to now, have only been able to produce around 50 at a time using a laborious process. With this new stem cell study, which grew up to 5,000 HFGs at the same time, scientists may have made a breakthrough in hair regenerative medicine.

"The key for the mass production of HFGs was a choice of substrate materials for culture vessel," says Professor Junji Fukuda from Yokohama National University. "We used oxygen-permeable dimethylpolysiloxane (PDMS) at the bottom of culture vessel, and it worked very well."

The researchers tested the practicability of their technique, transferring the HFGs from a HFG chip, a 300-microwell array or culture vessel in which the HFGs were grown, onto a mouse body. The mouse managed to grow black hair follicles and hairs on the back and scalp, the two transplantation sites they tested. The regenerated hair appeared to function as typical mice hairs, following the typical mouse hair cycle.

"This simple method is very robust and promising. We hope that this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia," says Fukuda.

Androgenic alopecia is pattern baldness which affects both men and women, a common form of hair loss, but the technique would also be applicable to other forms of hair loss, such as that experienced by cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy.

The team's findings were published in Biomaterials.

Source: Yokohama National University

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