A cure for baldness could be within sight after scientists found they could create natural-looking hair using stem cells.
Researchers in America said they had refined a method which allowed them to grow hair through the skin of mice using dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells.
The findings could prove to be a “critical breakthrough” in the treatment of hair loss, the experts said, as they presented the results at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Los Angeles.
The study involved the human stem cells being combined with mice cells before they were attached to a 3D biodegradable scaffold made from the same material as dissolvable stitches.
The scaffold helped control the direction of hair growth and helped the stem cells integrate into the skin.
“Our new protocol… overcomes key technological challenges that kept our discovery from real-world use,” said Alexey Terskik, of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in California.
“Now we have a robust, highly controlled method for generating natural-looking hair that grows through the skin using an unlimited source of human iPSC-derived dermal papilla cells.
“This is a critical breakthrough in the development of cell-based hair-loss therapies and the regenerative medicine field.”
The scientists are now looking at applying the same process in humans, and say there is an “unlimited” supply of stem cells which can be derived from a simple blood draw.
Male pattern baldness affects about 50% of men over the age of 50, according to the British Association of Dermatologists, with many men suffering hair loss from puberty.
Current treatments include the drugs minoxidil or finasteride, while hair transplants can cost anywhere between £1,000 and £30,000.