grow hair without drugs
scalp cells shows promise for baldness
3, 1999 - Scientists transplanted
scalp cells from one person to another and, for the first time ever,
grew new hair on a human without the use of drugs. The approach
could someday enable just about any head to sprout hair, researchers
IT ALSO raises hopes of someday spurring the growth of new tissue or even whole organs inside patients, such as cartilage in arthritic joints.
“You can use a few cells to basically regenerate an entire organ. To me, that’s the mind-blowing part,” said Angela Christiano, a Columbia
University baldness researcher who did the genetic analysis for the British experiment, reported in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.
In the new work, scientists at Durham University in northern England transplanted cells from a male hair follicle and grafted them on to a woman’s arm.
Within five weeks, the transplanted tissue — no bigger than the head of a pin — made a total of five fully grown hairs in the woman’s arm.
Although the research was designed to test whether the graft would be rejected by the unrelated woman, the researchers were pleased by the
“It does show the potential of being able to induce new hair follicles in human skin which I don’t think has been done before,” said study head Colin
Jahoda. Jahoda said normally the foreign cells would be rejected by the recipient. But the scientists suspect the cells
taken from the base of follicle may have some type of immune privilege which allows them to mix with foreign cells.
So instead of being cast out by the woman’s immune system, the male cells interacted with her cells to create new follicles.
“The cells have got instructions to tell other cells to create the structure,” explained Jahoda. “These cells instructed the host cells to make a new follicle.”
DNA samples taken from the newly sprouted hair contained the Y male chromosome, proving that the new hair was from the man’s cells.
As would be expected with male
hair, the new hair was longer, thicker and darker than arm hair, but it combined some characteristics of both donor and recipient.
Such success had been achieved before only in animal experiments.
CURRENT BALDNESS TREATMENTS
Current baldness treatments include hair grafts and certain drugs. Drugs can slow hair loss or even produce new hair, but only in a limited
number of people. In grafts, hair is lifted from one section of a man’s scalp and transplanted whole into a bald spot on his head. However, the
process requires a slow, expensive and potentially painful series of operations.
The new work suggests the possibility of a quicker procedure
with less cutting and the creation of new hair in just about anyone. The cells could be removed from a person’s own scalp or, if that person
cannot produce good quality cells, they could be collected from someone else. They could then be multiplied through laboratory cloning before
“Having the hair as an immunologically privileged organ would be very, very important,” said Dr. Michael Bernstein, a hair
transplant surgeon who is medical director of the New Hair Institute in Los Angeles.
He said Jahoda’s technique may give hope mainly to old
people who want new hair, patients with bad burns, or others who for genetic reasons fail to make their own hair. He predicted that bald men will
be able to have their own hair cloned within 15 years or so.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.