LA JOLLA, Calif., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A new technique for growing human hair in a petri dish may hold promise for balding men and women all over the world. Scientists have managed to grow new hair from human pluripotent stem cells -- cells capable of morphing into all sorts of different cells.
In this instance, the stem cells -- taken from human embryos -- are coaxed into mimicking dermal papillae, the type of cells that govern hair follicle formation and growth cycles. Dermal papillae can be grown in the lab from adult cells, as well, but they quickly lose their potency. Dermal papillae developed from stem cells do not.
"We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth," explained Alexey Terskikh, an associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
"The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another," Terskikh added. "Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn't limited by the availability of existing hair follicles."
In studies with mice, transplanted stem-turned-dermal papillae cells were able to grow significant amounts of hair.
The authors of the study -- which was published in the journal PLOS ONE -- are now looking for partners to help take the science to market.
The only problem is that the newly generated stem cell hair grows in a haphazard pattern, each hair shooting in out in different directions and at different angles.
"So it might be a little messy," Terskikh told U-T San Diego. "But I figure that people will prefer messy hair over a lack of it."