Can Stem Cells Finally Provide a Baldness Cure That Works?

There has been no shortage of baldness cures over the ages, but they all share one thing in common: none of them really work. Now, a team of scientists has used stem cell therapy to give a hairless mouse a mohawk. There is hope yet.

The researchers, from the Tokyo University of Science, have seized on the concept of using stem cells to provide regenerative medicine, and given it a twist. Actually, maybe more of a curl, because they hit on the idea of using the therapy—usually reserved for restoring organs damaged by disease or illness—to regenerate hair follicles.

To do that, they created a "seed" of a hair follicle by combining adult epithelial stem cells and dermal papilla cells—two basic cells that are found in the skin—from a normal mouse. Then, they inserted that seed into the skin of a hairless mouse, which are genetically engineered for just this kind of research, and... waited.

The result? Fully functional hair follicles, that grew a respectable amount of hair. Not just that, these things connected properly with the skin and nerves, went through the typical cycle of shedding hairs and then regrowing, and could even get goosebumps. These hair follicles are the real deal. The research is published in Nature Communications.

All told, it's perhaps the most promising solution to regenerating hair that we've seen. The catch—there's always a catch, right?—is that, as yet, it's entirely untested in humans. And even if it was, this kind of therapy is extremely exotic, so wouldn't come cheap. [Nature Communications]

Image by Tokyo University of Science