Researchers discover skin cells that could grow hair - Fox 2 News Headlines

Researchers discover skin cells that could grow hair

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The cells under a microscope at Columbia Medical Center The cells under a microscope at Columbia Medical Center
(WJBK) -

Researchers at Columbia Medical Center have figured out how to get tiny cells to tell our skin to grow hair.

"For the first time we can think about using a patient's own cells, expanding them and using them to grow many new hairs," Angela Christiano, the lead researcher, says. Christiano is familiar with hair loss; she started losing her own hair in 1996 due to the medical condition Alopecia. Alopecia causes large patches of hair loss. Christiano currently wears a wig.

After 15 years, her life's work is finally yielding results.

At first the tiny cells weren't good at remembering what to do when they were harvested. But Christiano coaxed them into little droplets, or spheres, and now they grow new hair follicles in the laboratory.

This discovery could turn the $3.5 billion a year baldness industry around. Hair follicles could be grown in the lab for transportation, particularly for women who don't have enough donor hair. The cells could able added to skin grafts for burn victims, or even injected directly into the scalp to treat receding hairlines.

Christiano believes she only needs a little more research before she will begin human trials.

"We need to understand how the hairs are colored, how they're shaped. Are they textured right? And more importantly, do they cycle?" Christiano explains.

The discovery also opens up a new field for drug research. Because hair follicles couldn't previously be grown in the lab drug companies have had no way to test new pharmaceuticals to treat hair loss, but that could soon change now.

Next, comes human testing to see how well this works outside the lab.

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