A potential cure for baldness was presented at the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) conference in Los Angeles on June 27, 2019. Scientists have successfully grown “unlimited” hair on mice using stem cells – and are now refining the process to be used on humans. Dr. Richard Chaffoo, a hair restoration specialist in San Diego, is directly involved in this exciting research.
How Could Scientists Use Human Stem Cells to Cure Baldness?
Scientists from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in La Jolla, California, have used human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to create hair follicles that grow through the skin. In tests, scientists grafted human stem cells and mice cells together onto biodegradable scaffolds—made from the same material as dissolvable stitches—which were inserted under the skin of hairless mice. The scaffold controls the growth and direction of growth of hair that emerges through the skin. When the biodegradable scaffold dissolves, all that’s left is healthy hair growing as normal. Now they’re refining the process to be applied on humans.
Dermal papilla cells naturally reside in hair follicles and control hair growth, thickness, and length. The new follicle generation process uses dermal papilla cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, which act like embryonic stem cells from normal adult cells. This process is different from others because human iPSCs provide an unlimited supply of cells and can be derived from a simple blood draw.
“This is a critical breakthrough in the development of cell-based hair loss therapies and the regenerative medicine field,” said Dr. Alexey Terskikh of SBP.
Hair growth on a hairless rat is pictured above, enhanced with a fluorescent microscopy image of
hair follicles under the skin (inset right).
The work has been described as a ‘critical breakthrough’ that could help millions of people who suffer from baldness for reasons such as age, genes or illness. A company in the U.S., Stemson Therapeutics, has already committed to developing the technology, which experts hope to move onto testing on people. (More information is available in this separate blog post.)
“Our new protocol described today overcomes key technological challenges that kept our discovery from real-world use,” said Dr. Terskikh, Stemson co-founder. “Now we have a robust, highly controlled method for generating natural-looking hair that grows through the skin using an unlimited source of human [stem cell]-derived dermal papilla cells.” In 2015, Dr. Terskikh successfully grew hair underneath mouse skin using those stem cells, but without control of the growth. The new, refined protocol controls how much hair is grown and in what direction.
Dr. Chaffoo Is Eager to Offer His Patients This Solution
“Hair loss profoundly affects many people’s lives. A significant part of my practice involves both men and women who are seeking solutions to their hair loss,” said Dr. Richard Chaffoo, a plastic surgeon who founded La Jolla Plastic Surgery & Dermatology and La Jolla Hair MD, and is a medical advisor to Stemson Therapeutics. “I am eager to advance this groundbreaking technology, which could improve the lives of millions of people who struggle with hair loss,” he added.
At Stemson, the goal is to grow hair for customers using their own iPSC cells. Because these cells come from the patient’s own blood, they’re likely to be accepted by their immune system. The company’s long-term goal is to provide transplants made from cells taken from other donors, allowing hair to be grown in advance and treatments to become more affordable.
Visit Dr. Chaffoo’s online photo gallery to see results he achieves today with NeoGraft FUE hair transplant surgery. To discuss current offerings for hair restoration, contact us online or call La Jolla Plastic Surgery & Dermatology at (858) 256-4774.