Martinick Hair Restoration’s Dr Jennifer Martinick dedicates considerable time to research and development as well as attending scientific conferences.
Among the notable presentations at the International Society of Hair Restoration (ISHRS) Surgery’s recent meeting in San Francisco were the findings of a study into using a patient’s own cells to grow new hair.
Attracting significant media coverage, the findings of the research could eventually compliment or provide an alternative to current treatments like a hair transplant and medications.
Dr Christiano, a hair geneticist and dermatology professor at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, investigated how to take hair cells from the body, clone them and then reinsert them back into the body to grow new hair follicles.
Dr Christiano, who has alopecia areata, partnered with Dr Colin Jahoda from Durham University in Britain for the study which found the cells can retain their ability to grow hair when grown upside down.
The technique has only been tested on mice, however hairs have been grown on human skin grafted onto animals.
A report in the New York Times said unlike a hair transplant which shifts hair from a donor area to another place on the head, the new technique would add hair.
The report said the technique involved removing a smaller patch of cells involved in hair formation from the scalp, culturing them in the laboratory to increase their numbers and injecting them back into a patient’s head.
Their study focused on dermal papillae, groups of cells at the base of hair follicles, and took papillae from seven men who were undergoing transplants, and cultured them into human skins – foreskins from circumcised infants – grafted onto mice.
Although only producing small hairs, the new human follicles grew in five of the seven grafts.
While researchers have known for many years that papilla cells from rodents lead to new hair growth, this study’s breakthrough comes in finding a way to grow human papillae, which when grown in culture, lose their ability to make hair follicles form.
The breakthrough came when the researchers utilised ‘hanging drop culture’, a method which flips the lid of a culture dish so the drops are hanging upside down.
While the research is still in its early stages, Dr Christiano reportedly said using human papillae to regrow hair could significantly expand the use of hair transplantation to women who tended to have insufficient donor hair.
“This method offers the possibility of inducing large numbers of hair follicles or rejuvenating existing hair follicles starting with cells grown from just a few hundred donor hairs,” Dr Christiano said.
“It could make hair transplantation available to individuals with a limited number of follicles, including those with female-pattern hair loss, scarring alopecia, and hair loss due to burns.”
Co study leader, Dr Jahoda said more work needed to be done in establishing the origins of the critical intrinsic properties of the newly induced hair such as their cycle kinetics, colour, angle, positioning and texture, before the method could be tested on human cells.
“We also need to establish the role of the host epidermal cells that the dermal papilla cells interact with to make the new structure,” Dr Jahoda said.
“This study is an important step toward the goal of creating replacement skins that contains hair follicles for use with, for example, burn patients.”
Article by Evelyn Duffy of the Martinick Hair Restoration Clinic in Perth, Western Australia.