Unlike current hair transplant methods, which simply move existing hair follicles from one area of the scalp to another to cover a bald region, the approach would spur the creation of new hair follicles from existing cells.
“It’s exciting because it shows a cell-based approach for treating hair loss is maybe feasible,” says George Cotsarelis, a dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The results also mark a step forward in efforts to regenerate organs such as salivary glands that form in a process similar to hair early in their development, says study coauthor Takashi Tsuji of Tokyo University of Science in Chiba, Japan. Tsuji and his colleagues describe the findings in the April 17 Nature Communications.
Hair follicles develop when two different types of cells — epithelial and mesenchymal cells — interact with each other. Epithelial cells grow very quickly and shed, while mesenchymal cells direct epithelial cells to make a follicle.