For most people, hair loss is the result of follicles shrinking until they can no longer produce robust hairs. Although treatments can slow shrinkage and doctors can transplant existing healthy follicles, the best way to beat baldness is to make new ones. Scientists have done this in mice by culturing and transplanting dermal papilla cells – cells that give rise to follicles, shown here inside the cavity of a highly magnified follicle base. Unfortunately, the trick has never worked in humans. Researchers suspected this was because the cells were grown in a flat layer, which stops them sending signals to each other. Sure enough, when the cells were grown in hanging droplets clustering them into a ball – and were then implanted into human skin grafted onto a rat – they produced new follicles. The results raise the possibility that doctors could one day have a ready supply of fresh follicles for transplant.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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