Today, science can only patch up bald spots or stop hair loss. What if you could re-grow your hair one day? Research is quickly moving in that direction.
In 1990, a scientist named Colin Jahoda at the University of Durham took hair follicle cells from his head, cultured them in a laboratory and then implanted them on his wife's arm. Eventually, a thick dark hair sprouted from in between her blond, fine arm hair. When the hair was analyzed, it contained Colin's DNA. Excited by his results, Jahoda tried a similar experiment in mice. In 1992, he took cells from the follicle of a mouse whisker, copied them in the lab, and then transplanted them into a mouse's ear. The mouse grew a whisker from its ear.
Since then, researchers have been trying to get hair follicle cells to multiply. Hair follicle cells can change not only themselves, but the cells around them to transform into hair. The idea would be to clone the cells in the lab, then transplant them onto a human head, where they would grow into real follicle cells sprouting real hair.
Even more malleable are stem cells, which can transform into many different types of cells. When researchers at Rockefeller University transplanted stem cells into genetically engineered hairless mice, the mice grew patches of fur. Now scientists are trying to replicate the effects in humans.
Another avenue of hair regeneration research focuses on genes. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered a gene, called wnt, which produced new hair follicles in mice. Researchers hope that one day it might be possible to use this or similar genes to grow new follicles in humans. With gene therapy, scientists might also be able to eventually block the action of genes that cause hair loss. However, because hair loss involves a complex interplay of genes and hormones, a "cure" for baldness is likely still many years away.
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