Another Step Towards Hair Regeneration

Judging by actions and the amount of noise generated, there is much more enthusiasm for hair regeneration than for regeneration of internal organs. But it's not news that people exhibit terrible prioritization when it comes to health, aging, and supporting research. If we lived in a rational world, the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies would be massively funded now that it is a plausible goal, and restoration of hair wouldn't be high on the list of priorities, given that it doesn't kill you, and there are all too many other forms of actually fatal degeneration to reverse:

One potential approach to reversing hair loss uses stem cells to regenerate the missing or dying hair follicles. But it hasn't been possible to generate sufficient number of hair-follicle-generating stem cells - until now. [Researchers demonstrated] a method for converting adult cells into epithelial stem cells, the first time anyone has achieved this in either humans or mice. The epithelial stem cells, when implanted into immunocompromised mice, regenerated the different cell types of human skin and hair follicles, and even produced structurally recognizable hair shaft, raising the possibility that they may eventually enable hair regeneration in people.

"This is the first time anyone has made scalable amounts of epithelial stem cells that are capable of generating the epithelial component of hair follicles." Those cells have many potential applications, including wound healing, cosmetics, and hair regeneration. [They] are not yet ready for use in human subjects, [however]. A hair follicle contains epithelial cells - a cell type that lines the body's vessels and cavities - as well as a specific kind of adult stem cell called dermal papillae. "When a person loses hair, they lose both types of cells. We have solved one major problem, the epithelial component of the hair follicle. We need to figure out a way to also make new dermal papillae cells, and no one has figured that part out yet."



"When a person loses hair, they lose both types of cells. We have solved one major problem, the epithelial component of the hair follicle. We need to figure out a way to also make new dermal papillae cells, and no one has figured that part out yet."

The second half of the problem, the dermal papillae cells, is being worked on. Angela Christiano and her collegues at Columbia University in New York recently discovered a solution to the long standing problem that Human dermal papillae cells completely lose their character when they are multiplied in culture. They controlled the cells 3D environment better by growing them in hanging drops of water.

"This method restored the functioning of 22% of genes to normal. However to ensure the production of robust hairs, the researchers need to figure out how to restore the functioning of a greater proportion. Christiano’s team is now working on a chemical concoction that would do just that."

Link to the BBC article:
Link to the research paper:

Posted by: Jim at January 29th, 2014 10:15 AM

While prioritizing hair over say, livers is irrational. But the rational thing to do given this truth is to exploit the irrational to further the cause. It has long been my contention that a regenerative treatment for something "superficial" such as hair, skin or weight loss, will be a true "aha" moment for the broadest possible demographic.

People need to see to believe. A efficacious treatment for something on the vanity side of the ledger of human aging would do more in ten minutes to accelerate investment in the arena of aging research than all the combined efforts of SENS to date. Such cosmetic and superficial things will open eyes and minds. And wallets.

It's counterintuitive perhaps, but I would actually say that these areas of research will accelerate the larger project faster than any other. Sailing does not mean cursing the direction of the wind, but cleverly using that wind to get where you wish. We should use this irrational flaw -probably an expression of our evolution- to our advantage.

Posted by: Jersey Jones at January 29th, 2014 11:05 AM

I agree completely, Jersey Jones. Treatments that appeal to vanity will explode the life extension movement greatly. Aside from the general public's skepticism towards most things anti-aging, why would anyone believe that it's possible to reverse aging in the entire body when it can't be accomplished with something superficial?

One thing I have noticed in public perception lately is the inability to distinguish maturation and aging. With the recent stories of Sinclair's NAD research claiming the age reversal caused in mice was analogous to a 60 year old human becoming 20 again, I have seen conversation along the lines of, "What would happen if you reversed someone's age too much? You took a grown man and made him an infant!?" I know Aubrey has heard something similar. It seems necessary to decouple maturation (growth) and aging (decay) in the eyes of the public. Both processes involve time, but are generally separate things.

Posted by: Robert at January 29th, 2014 2:45 PM

I have always said to people (34 years ago) that life exstension tech/research will first garner attention when they can re-generate hair and skin...seems we are a lot closer!!

Posted by: gary s at January 29th, 2014 5:23 PM

At the very least, this will get rid of the "How can you cure aging if you can't even cure baldness?" argument...

Posted by: Jim at January 29th, 2014 8:03 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.