12:03 22 October 2013
A team of American and British scientists have made a breakthrough in the fight against bald spots receding hairlines after successfully growing human hairs in a lab.
They managed to create brand new hairs from isolated tissue samples - a technique which they claim could dramatically transform existing treatments.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but stated that more research was needed to build on the success.
Existing treatments include drug therapies to prolong hair life and hair transplants which plant hair from the back of the head (where it is often thicker and healthier) on to the bald patches.
Despite success in growing animal hair, human hair has been a harder task but the scientists at the UK's University of Durham and America's Columbia University Medical Centre managed to grow new hairs.
Previously the cells used (at the base of the hair follicle) would transform into new skin rather than new hairs but the scientists clumped more cells together to promote the growth of hairs.
They used "3D spheroids" to grow hairs via tissue taken from seven people. They then transplanted the hairs into human skin grafted on to the backs of mice.
After six weeks, five of the seven had formed new hairs - a good result.
Durham University's Prof Colin Jahoda told the BBC: "[A cure] is closer, but it's still some way away because in terms of what people want cosmetically they're looking for re-growth of hair that's the same shape, the same size, as long as before, the same angle. Some of these are almost engineering solutions.
"It [baldness] will eventually be treatable, absolutely."
"It's hard to say exactly how long that would take, but the fact that we've done it now should reawaken interest."
The work can also be used to help with skin surgeries for patients suffering from severe burns.
Columbia University's Prof Angela Christiano said: "This approach has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss.
"Current hair-loss medications tend to slow the loss of hair follicles or potentially stimulate the growth of existing hairs, but they do not create new hair follicles.
"Our method, in contrast, has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient's own cells."
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