Closer to a Cure for Baldness

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Turning hair growth on its head — by transplanting hair follicles upside down — may provide hope for receding hairlines.

It’s one of the more vexing problems in medicine — about half of men and women over age 50 experience hair loss, from thinning of their scalp to male pattern baldness. Their options, however, are few. Medications can only slow the rate of loss, without generating lush new growth, while surgical strategies essentially move hair-growing cells from one part of the scalp to another, with varying success.

The ideal solution would be one that prompts defective hair follicles to sprout new hair, or that allows transplanted follicles to have a greater chance of laying down roots. And in new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists led by a team at Columbia University Medical Center reveal one potentially robust way of accomplishing this feat.

Working from the knowledge that hair follicles may need just the right cellular and molecular environment to do their job, the scientists transplanted not just the hair follicles, which serve as the root for new hair growth, but the dermal papilla cells that accompany them. The key was to transplant them in a three-dimensional sphere of cells — and upside down — so that all of the cells could communicate and interact with one another to send the right signals to prompt hair growth. To test the strategy, the researchers grew dermal papilla cells from seven human donors and cloned the cells in tissue culture. After several days, they transplanted the cultured papillae between the dermis and epidermis layers of human-skin samples. The human skin was then grafted onto the back of mice. Five of the seven transplants led to hirsute patches that lasted for at least six weeks.

The hairs were still small, but the researchers are encouraged because they used human skin that normally is completely hairless — the foreskins from circumcised babies. Essentially, they generated hair growth in cells that normally have no capacity for sprouting hair.

“This suggested that if we cultured human papillae in such a way as to encourage them to aggregate … it could create the conditions needed to induce hair growth in human skin,” study author Claire A. Higgins, an associate research scientist said in a statement about the research.

If the results are validated, the scientists anticipate that the technique could be used to treat everything from male pattern baldness to female hair loss and burn patients who have lost the upper layers of skin that contain hair follicles.

25 comments
SereneJohnson
SereneJohnson

Who cares if baby foreskins are showing promise to cure ANYTHING? Its THEIR foreskin, not YOURS! It shouldnt be cut off them in the first place!

cck710
cck710

Ever since man began actively searching for a way to counteract hair loss it seems that there have been a great number of theories and ideas surrounding what actually cause the problem. However, no one has really been able to prove one theory above the others until  recently. Read More

redsox24b
redsox24b

Awesome.. how much longer now? 5..10 more years? 

TimeThoughts
TimeThoughts

Circumcisions occur more often when the doctor is paid more money. The medical profession lies to families to make money. There is no legitimate medical benefit to this mutiliation. How much financial gain do hospitals and/or physicians make selling the amputated body part to these researchers? I am certain this research can benefit some people. However, it should not be conducted in a way where children are having their basic human right of control over their bodies without torture or mutilation stolen away from them. They do not get the choice of whether they want the appearance or sex life they were intended to get or the one they are now stuck with. Some of these children will lose all sexual function (I've seen it) and sometimes even their penis (I've read about it and at least twice it is documented they removed the testicles and raised the boys as girls) for the financial benefit of physicians. Parents need to research what they are really doing to their children. They also need to respect that it is the child's body, not theirs. If a grown man wants to undergo such an act, that is his choice. But to take that choice away from a child is a violation of his body and his basic human rights. 

Counselor1
Counselor1

Some folks must not have considered the WHOLE article.  They also mentioned that it could be used to help BURN victims, which I think is profoundly important.  It is not just something that could be used for hair loss.  

StacyDeG
StacyDeG

The biotech industry is the driving point behind the senseless mutilation of babies. They are a big reason why people in contemporary society view this as normal. Absolutely disgusting and shame on Time for having zero moral obligations to why this is wrong.

Lt_Dan08
Lt_Dan08

"The hairs were still small, but the researchers are encouraged because they used human skin that normally is completely hairless — the foreskins from circumcised babies."

So, we're just going to gloss over this little factoid right here?

UnniN
UnniN

Illnesses that once were considered obscure

Have been overcome - helping to make us secure

From Cancer and Pox

And rabies and Kochs

But baldness (like jealousy) still has no cure!

mak4374
mak4374

Articles like this always remind me of the movie "Idiocracy", where the best and brightest spend their energy working on baldness and penis growth, than solving the world's real problems.

But then again, perhaps many of us are wrong: all the world's problems are BECAUSE of male baldness and penis envy!

redsox24b
redsox24b

@Counselor1 Great point. Also, just because one prick is ok with "baldness" doesn't necessarily mean others are as well. I can tell you this, anybody who is told that they can have their baldness cured, they will jump for that solution. Regardless. A cure for hair loss will be tremendous, for everybody. Any advancement in human medicine is good, because it could lead to many others that might not even relate to hair loss. 

hellouser
hellouser

@mak4374 Ahh, another privileged cretin that has no idea what it's like to be crippled by society because of genetics taking away your hair. If only you weren't so ignorant. I seriously hope you go bald, comments like yours are deserving of such a penalty, because only then you'd know how miserable bald men feel when women demonize you and consider you third rate, men mock you for being a 'beta-male' and a slew of other issues. I can't even imagine what bald women go through. People like you call it vanity but are clueless of what vanity actually means. Bald men and woman don't want something they never had, we want to KEEP what we have.

While you're part of the problem, one of the many in society that has no respect for bald people, I have no respect for people like you. That said, if baldness needs a cure, than so should society receive a cure for its incredible ignorance and arrogance.

ElCapitan
ElCapitan

I'm a woman that suffers from hair loss and although not vain my hair loss contributes heavily to my depressing nature at times. When will people realize that we are all suffering from different issues and although they may not be important to you they may be severe to the next. These threads always remind me of how insensitive and self absorbed people can be.

mak4374
mak4374

@hellouser @mak4374 Please read my responses to other comments above to find out what I actually think.  Perhaps your comment should be directed to someone else, like C-BwoyCool above, who I am about to respond now. 

Reflectively attacking someone on a position one did not fully educate himself, says more about that person than they one he is attacking.  Please take the time and read my responses.

mak4374
mak4374

@ElCapitan I cannot speak of others, but it is because I totally empathize with some issues as yours, is why I made the second part of my opinion: perhaps I am wrong. 

The question is, if we as a species think that many of the world's biggest problems are (and I am saying this with no personal judgment towards any individual, but to the society as a whole) those of vanity - yes, we have evolved beyond the point where hair is essential for our physical survival - don't we, perhaps, need to rearrange our standards?  Am I been naive? Of course! No doubt.  But I am not proposing that no one, anywhere should totally not care about their looks.  Just that we move beyond our biological needs and our societal wants, and become more accepting of..."different".  And even better, desire it.


As for your last point, perhaps the value of stories like these are two-fold: one, for those seeking a glimpse of humanity, sanity, empathy, will find it among the muck.  And two, those who have forgotten or try to suppress that humanity, to be reminded of it by the personal story of a fellow human being.


Thank you for your story, and please, please remember that, Every. Single. One. Of. Us feels like you about something we don't like in, or on ourselves.  Have you ever met anyone, other than small children and sociopaths, that actually like all the photos taken of themselves? The image of ourselves is not who we are, but the "disappointment" in who we think we should be.  The reality is much, much more beautiful.

mak4374
mak4374

@cleanstreetsforever @mak4374 And you are right.  And I say that without sarcasm.  I absolutely do not minimize the impact of the condition, and even thought I did not go through depression when I lost my hair, I have seen what others go through and in no way do I think negative of them.


I suppose my comment, and outlook, is more towards our priorities; where we place them, and even worse, the lengths we go to defend them. No, of course I do NOT think, as in the movie I mentioned, that ALL our resources go towards projects of vanity.  But if we really think about it, most things we do, most things we are, are for the sake of vanity.


Thank you for pointing a very important aspect of the issue.  I only take credit for levity, which I suppose is but one way of opening a door to the more serious underlying issue.

mak4374
mak4374

@C-BwoyCool Yes, I am bold.  I am also short, fat, and I would say ugly. And perhaps I am also honest enough to agree that we don't want to be a society such as me, but I am also intelligent enough to know that every society had people like me and you in the mix.  It was only the mythical amazons that did not allow me to exist, and the ancient Greeks that did not use me as their ideal models.  I am also humane enough to know the difference between social commentary and the viciousness of vanity.

I hope you grow out of it, if not for your own good, at least for the good of the society you seem to like; and want to be accepted by, so desperately.   

C-BwoyCool
C-BwoyCool

Are ye bald? Im not..but almost. It sucks.Not fun. I know there are many things to worry about, but baldness is pretty major. We dont want to be a society of bald, fats, and uglies.