Many companies have been researching new ways to get rid of baldness : From finding the genes responsible for hair loss, to stimulating follicles, to finding ways to regenerate new hair follicles. One of the paths that may become accessible to us as soon as 2018, is through regenerative medicine.
What is regenerative medicine?
Regeneration involves delivering specific types of cells or cell products to diseased tissues or organs, where they will ultimately restore tissue and organ function. The idea is to allow healing of the body from within by regenerating functioning healthy tissues. Stem cells are a key component of regenerative medicine. Stem cells have the ability to develop — through a process called differentiation — into many different types of cells, such as skin cells, brain cells, lung cells and so on.
Hair follicles are composed of living cells and tissues at the root of our hair. With the exception of our skin, hair follicles are the only organ we know of that regenerates themselves repeatedly. This happens due to the stem cells associated with them. Hair follicles do not die when the hair is shed. It hibernates until it is ready to grow a new hair.
If the follicles were damaged, there would be no way, until now, to grow new follicles. This means no new hair growth.
Follicular regenerative medicine
Follicular regenerative medicine is a new hair restorative method by removing a small patch of skin and hair follicles from the patient’s scalp. The stem cells active in the follicles are isolated and extracted and then cultivated to increase their numbers by many orders of magnitude. These cells are subsequently processed and turned into follicles, and then injected or autografted onto the patient’s scalp.
The researchers at RIKEN, Japan’s largest research organization led by Takashi Tsuji, have developed a method called primordium method to regenerate body parts with stem cells.
The advantages of this technique over surgical transplants is that:
- It is less invasive
- It can increase the number of follicles. It’s like having a new set of naturally grown hair.
This image is sourced from Kyocera.
What’s in store for us
RIKEN, which has teamed up with two Japanese companies, Kyocera and Organ Technologies are targeting 2020 for commercialization.
Scientists at Sanford-Burham Medical Research Institute in California have also made a similar announcement in 2015 citing similar methods.
Elsewhere, Japan cosmetic maker Shiseido has been working with RepliCel Life and Sciences in Canada to develop their own regenerative process and aims to introduce a treatment as early as 2018 for a fee of 100,00 yen ($1,000).
Whether or not, these treatments will be affordable to most is another question, but this is a big leap into a positive direction. If the technology works well, we can finally say byebye to baldness in the next few years.