It would be an interesting and possibly rather depressing exercise to compare funding for reversal of age-related hair loss to that for the effective treatment of various other aspects of aging. Hair restoration, I think, is fairly well funded in comparison with many lines of research that I consider to be far more important. What moves the needle for you: looking good or living in good health? It would be a tremendous improvement over the present state of the human condition to find oneself at age 80 and balded, yet with internal organs repaired by rejuvenation biotechnologies, and the health and vigor to complain loudly about the terrible state of hair regrowth medicine. Instead I rather fear the order of development is going to be the other way around, with elderly people continuing to crumble inside in a score of ways yet having the option of a naturally flowing head of hair should they so desire. Progress happens most rapidly where the funding flows, and vanity has never been well restrained by common sense.
In reality we'd like to see unrestrained research funding sufficient for rapid progress on all fronts of regeneration and rejuvenation, whether merely vain and secondary or connected to the essential function of organs actually required for healthy life. Funding for medical research is such a tiny fraction of the resources spent on frivolous things that there is always room for growth through persuasion.
"We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another. Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn't limited by the availability of existing hair follicles."
The research team developed a protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells. They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture. "We developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice. Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects. We are currently seeking partnerships to implement this final step."
Dermal Papillae (DP) is a unique population of mesenchymal cells that was shown to regulate hair follicle formation and growth cycle. During development most DP cells are derived from mesoderm, however, functionally equivalent DP cells of cephalic hairs originate from Neural Crest (NC). Here we directed human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to generate first NC cells and then hair-inducing DP-like cells in culture.
We showed that hESC-derived DP-like cells (hESC-DPs) are able to induce hair follicle formation when transplanted under the skin of immunodeficient NUDE mice. Engineered to express GFP, hESC-derived DP-like cells incorporate into DP of newly formed hair follicles and express appropriate markers. We demonstrated that BMP signaling is critical for hESC-DP derivation since BMP inhibitor dorsomorphin completely eliminated hair-inducing activity from hESC-DP cultures.
DP cells were proposed as the cell-based treatment for hair loss diseases. Unfortunately human DP cells are not suitable for this purpose because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly loose their ability to induce hair follicle formation when cultured. In this context derivation of functional hESC-DP cells capable of inducing a robust hair growth for the first time shown here can become an important finding for the biomedical science.