Adult stem cells get ready for a blow wave in the hair salon

planting a new hair in a hair follicleScience is working hard to find ways to “fix” our broken bits, by harnessing our body’s own built in maintenance crew i.e. our stem cells.

Many teams dream of fixing hearts and brains using adult stem cells, but a Japanese team has set their sights on something a little more aesthetically pleasing – the team is one stem cell closer to generating a head of hair.

Growing REAL hair

There are already a myriad of treatments aimed at helping cover up shiny heads, but the end product is usually a not so cheap, hair now, gone tomorrow experience. Damaged skin is able to successfully knit together, but missing in action in skin scar tissue are the little hairs which confirm our mammalian heritage.

The Japanese team have managed to programme an adult epithelial stem cell to build a fully functional hair follicle, which sprouts hair.

Hair follicle to order

The team’s bioengineered hair follicles functioned just the way mother nature intended.

They sprouted new hairs which followed normal hair cycles. Beyond shedding and growing new hairs, the bioengineered hair follicles also wired themselves up correctly to the surrounding skin, developing an arrector pili muscle and the necessary nerve connections.

So plucking these newly minted hairs will cause an ouch ! And chilling experiences will get the hackles rising of these designer hairs, as they do piloerection i.e. goose bumps.

Hairy moments for the genetically bald

Look at the hairy wonder………

naked mouse sprouting hair from brand new hair follicles

Naked mice sprouting a new hair do. The photo belongs to research team at the Tokyo University of Science

Hair now, hearts tomorrow

This is a big step forward, but don’t expect to see full page spreads in magazines offering stem cell based hair restoral systems any time soon. Growing real hair in mice, is not quite the same as growing real hair in humans.


That ugly little mouse above, represents a big step in regenerative therapy. By mixing and matching the biological signals, science has been able to generate a functional organ. Obviously working out the signalling to programme a hair follicle, is a lot easier than a heart, but this tells us, it is possible – hair today, hearts tomorrow !

Fully functional hair follicle regeneration through the rearrangement of stem cells and their niches. Nature Communications (2012) 3: 784. Koh-ei Toyoshima, Kyosuke Asakawa, Naoko Ishibashi, Hiroshi Toki, Miho Ogawa, Tomoko Hasegawa, Tarou Irié, Tetsuhiko Tachikawa, Akio Sato, Akira Takeda, Takashi Tsuji.

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Further reading

hair recording the stress old stem cell trying to catch young stem cell skin stem cell beautifyin at night
Hair analysis can expose a heart attack waiting to happen Eternal youth only a stem cell away Your body’s beauty therapists  are only active at night

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