A new hope for Baldness cures?
A research team at the Perelman School of Medicine in the University of Pennsylvania has published some results of their study in Nature, wherein they describe the method they used to convert adult cells into stem cells of the epithelial layer. Though this has been a potential technique for years, nobody has been able to use it as a fool proof cure for baldness due to lack of enough cells. This team is the first to achieve results on mice or men.
Led by Dr. Xiaowei “George” Xu, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and dermatology, the team started their research by using human skin cells called dermal fibroblasts.
How did they produce the cells?
The scientists added three genes to these human skin cells converting them into induced induced pluripotent stem cells. The new cells were able to change into any cell type found in the body so the team converted them into epithelial stem cells, usually found in a part of hair follicles. They could now force the iPSCs to make large quantities of EpSCs by controlling growth factors of the cells received.
On implanting the EpSCs into mice, the cells began to regenerate cell types of human skin and hair follicles, forming recognizable hair shafts which show promise for curing baldness in humans. In 18 days, 25% of the iPSCs were converted into EpSCs, which were then purified using proteins found on their surfaces.
Ready for Humans yet?
The technique is not yet ready for humans but surely it will soon be so. The hair follicles that were produced on the mice, were structurally exactly similar to human hair follicles found in the epidermis. Dr. Xu says that this “is the first time anyone has made scalable amounts of epithelial stem cells that are capable of generating the epithelial component of hair follicles,” adding that the cells would even aid in wound healing, hair regeneration and cosmetics.
However, these cells are not yet ready for use by humans because the team has only solved one side of the entire equation. A hair follicle contains two things- epithelial cells and an adult stem cell called dermal papillae.
Dr. Xu explains further, when a person loses hair, they lose both these types of cells. The team has been able to figure out the epithelial component but the dermal papillae part remains unsolved. However, researchers are applying new strategies using only chemical agents that could result in more solutions. In late 2013, Medical News Today reported about a study that showed how a team of scientists successfully produced human hair from dermal papilla cells, suggesting how close we are to finding a cure for baldness.