In a new study, which seems to be a stepping stone towards the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss, researchers from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have used human pluripotent stem cells to generate new hair.
Alexey Terskikh, associate professor, explained, “We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another.”
He said that the stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and is not limited by the availability of existing hair follicles.
The researchers developed a protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells. They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle.
Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants as they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture whereas, Terkikh said, in adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties.
The team developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice.
While mentioning that the next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects mentioned, “We are currently seeking partnerships to implement this final step.”
The research was published online in the journal PLOS One.