Scientists Develop New Hair Transplant - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Scientists Develop New Hair Transplant

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Scientists think they have come up with a way to grow new hair from a person's skin cells.

Scientist unveiled the building blocks of a new hair follicle, tiny cells that tell our skin to grow hair.

For the first time, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have coaxed them to work in the laboratory.

Angela Christiano is the lead researcher. She started losing her own hair in 1996 to a devastating condition called alopecia areata. It was hard enough for her to deal with as an adult.

"We can for the first time think about using a patient's own cells, expanding them and using them to grow many new hairs," Christiano said. "When it strikes in children and it leads to complete hair loss, I think it changes ones life in ways that are really difficult to understand unless you've walked in those shoes."

After 15 years, her life's work is finally yielding results. At first, the little cells weren't good at remembering what to do when they were harvested, but when she coaxed them into little droplets they suddenly started growing new hair follicles.

The discovery could turn the $3.5 billion a year baldness industry on its head.

Hair follicles could be grown in the lab for transplantation particularly for women who tend not to have enough donor hair. They could be added to skin grafts for burn victims - even injected directly into the scalp to treat receding hairlines.

Christiano believes she only needs a bit more research before beginning human trials.

"We need to understand how the hairs are colored, how they're shaped, are they textured right and most importantly, do they cycle," Christiano said.

The discovery also opens up a whole 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.

This changes all that in ways Christiano hopes will change lives.

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