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How 3D Printing Grows Hair Follicles to Stop Hair Loss

Contact Author Brooke Schleehauf
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Woman smiling and flipping her long red hair

Human hair can now be grown in a dish, thanks to Columbia researchers and 3D-printing technology.

It has long been possible to grow mouse or rat hair in a laboratory environment, but scientists have struggled to generate consistent results with those methods when applied to human hair. This new method, published in Nature Communications, may open doors for hair testing and transplants.

Methods

The present research employed 3D printers to create a natural-seeming microenvironment for hair follicle growth. This involved 3D-printed plastic molds with long, 0.5 mm-wide extensions. Human skin was then engineered to grow around the molds, and hair follicle cells provided by human volunteers were placed in the molds' wells and topped with cells to produce keratin.

The cells were fed a diet of growth factors spiked with ingredients including JAK inhibitors; after three weeks, human hair follicles grew and began to create hair.

Implications

Since the new technology enables virtually unlimited new hair follicles—a "hair farm," as researchers put it—it is hoped to expand the availability of hair restoration to patients previously limited by the number of donor hairs. 

Researchers also hope it to help pharmaceutical companies as they test for new hair growth drugs. What possibilities will the growth technology hold for cosmetic science?

For the full study, please visit Nature Communications.

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