Science has thus far failed sufferers of baldness. Aside from expensive surgeries that transplant individual hair grafts from the back to the front of the head and medications that can slow the progression of loss, there is no cure. But researchers may be closer than ever, thanks to a common food preparation additive found in many fast food menu items.
A study recently published in the journal Biomaterials detailed work performed by Yokohama National University that shows promising results for regenerative therapy—a method for growing hair follicles in enough quantity to repopulate bald or balding areas. The Yokohama scientists were able to produce hair-follicle germs, or HFGs, cells that direct the development of follicles, in the lab. Once injected into the backs of mice, hair follicles and hair shaft regeneration followed: Tufts of hair began sprouting on the mice within days.
Professor Junji Fukuda said in a statement that the key to mass production of HFGs was having a substrate to rest on while being prepared and then injected into the mice. They chose dimethylpolysiloxane, a type of silicone found in commercial frying oils to prevent them from frothing.
The next step will be to see if the approach is as effective in humans. "This simple method is very robust and promising,” Fukuda said. “We hope that this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia. In fact, we have preliminary data that suggests human HFG formation using human keratinocytes [skin] and dermal papilla cells."