Researchers at Yokohama National University in Japan have developed a technique to mass-produce “hair follicle germs” – cellular aggregates that can be implanted into the skin and allowing new hair to grow. The technique brings a regenerative medical therapy for hair loss closer to clinical reality.
Hair loss can be psychologically challenging for the men and women who experience it. In our aging society, this number is set to increase. At the moment, treatment options for hair loss are limited and scientists are working to find new treatments to regenerate hair follicles. One of the major challenges has been creating hair follicle germs (HFGs) in large enough numbers to produce a viable and cost-effective treatment.
The Japanese research group has developed a new technique that allows them to produce up to 5000 HFGs simultaneously. The group cultured two different cell types necessary for HFGs and which self-organized into a HFG structure. However, the key to this successful culture lies in the custom vessels the team designed. These vessels take the form of a microwell array chip that permits oxygen to permeate the cultures and allows the team to grow a large number of HFGs at once.
“The key for the mass production of HFGs was a choice of substrate materials for the culture vessel,” said Junji Fukuda, a researcher involved in the study. “We used oxygen-permeable dimethylpolysiloxane (PDMS) at the bottom of the culture vessel, and it worked very well.”
The group showed that the HFGs grown in their system could conceivably be used to regenerate hair by implanting them into mice, where they sprouted new hair. “This simple method is very robust and promising. We hope that this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia,” said Fukuda. “In fact, we have preliminary data that suggests human HFG formation using human keratinocytes and dermal papilla cells.”