s The beginnings of hair grown in the laboratory

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January 2014

The beginnings of hair grown in the laboratory

A US-British team managed to grow hair follicles from skin cells they multiplied.


There is no cure today to sustainably grow hair. The baldness , which affects about one in two to 50 years in France, is an incurable disease.

Only two molecules, minoxidil and finasteride, really slow hair loss (alopecia), sometimes inducing a small regrowth.

These treatments are still very heavy (application or taken daily for life) and far from being devoid of side effects – including libido.

A promising avenue of research, culture Hair laboratory has taken a big step from a study published last year in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by a team led by the American Claire Higgins.

Researchers from Columbia University (USA) and the University of Durham (UK) managed to recreate hair follicles, hair factories, from dermal papilla, a group of cells located deep under the skin (the dermis). “The dermal papilla is a little conductor of the hair growth,” says Bruno Bernard, head of the laboratory L’Oréal research and innovation in hair biology. “This is what will cause intussusception of scalp hair follicle, which will itself make the hair, guided by the papilla.”

A reconstituted from a single root hair?

Buds were taken about 4 mm deep into the scalp of volunteers, then reimplanted in the foreskin, naturally devoid of all kinds fabric that could disrupt the experience. This fabric is then grafted onto the back of a mouse, which serves as a live carrier. Most then induces the genesis of a follicle.

American and British researchers are still gone further. “They were able to grow the cells in these dermal papillae to multiply virtually to infinity and to reconstruct a three-dimensional structure by injecting these cells in 3000 a” hanging drop “,” enthuses Bruno Bernard. “The cells in aggregating the bottom of the drop, rebuilt spheroids.”

Until now, human dermal papilla placed in 2D culture, losing their properties. What about these spheroids?

To find out, researchers have established, as the taste buds in the foreskin. And it worked. Between 15-60% of these structures have induced the birth of a hair follicle. “This is a major breakthrough,” says Bruno Bernard.

The technique of hair transplant or hair implants, is currently limited by the inability to multiply roots jacks on the back of the head, in the occipital area, to be returned on the top of the skull. This new research suggests that it may be possible in the near to reconstruct an entire hair from a single root future will be.

Grow hair in the hand …

“This is an important walk passed, but we are not yet at the top of the stairs,” nevertheless tempers Bruno Bernard. If the follicles have been induced only two on the hundred spheroids graft did provide a skinny hair.

“All inhibited by culturing genes have not been reactivated. In particular, it lacks the expression of LEF-1, a key gene in hair growth, “says French expert follicle. It should also be used closer scalp tissue that the foreskin leather. “Why not the tissue of the palm” to grow a bit in hand, offers the researcher with humor. Less innervated tissue but, in principle, equally smooth.