New research shows that hair follicles can regenerate following complete amputation of the follicle and even loss of the dermal papilla.
What more, this discovery is being used to create a new form of hair loss treatment – hair follicle neogenesis.
Firstly, I’ll introduce you to follicular neogenesis. This phenomenon has been studied for over 70 years, but has only recently been brought to the forefront of hair growth research.
Secondly, I’ll discuss the past and present research which has been done on the topic.
Finally, I’ll cover the future ramifications for such research, and what this means for hair loss sufferers.
What is Hair Follicle Neogenesis?
In simplest terms, hair follicle neogenesis refers to regeneration of follicular tissue.
Dermal papilla cells (DPC) are cultured and preserved – ensuring that their hair-inductive potential are protected – in order to be later transplanted onto the scalp of those suffering from hair loss.
Wound-induced hair follicle neogenesis has been studied since the 1940s.
This is a form of follicle regeneration which occurs as a result of an injury.
This is similar to the triggering of hair growth after a hair is plucked from the root, though there are three different forms of wound-induced hair follicle neogenesis:
- Regeneration following micro-injury. A micro-injury occurs when a targeted group of cells is destroyed, and the hair follicle cells recruit nearby progenitors in order to regenerate.
- Regeneration following partial amputation. Partial-amputation refers to loss of the bottom portion of the hair follicle (including dermal papilla cell) is damaged. In this case, regeneration begins in the top portion of the hair follicle, inducing full regeneration of the dermal papilla.
- Regeneration following complete amputation. Complete amputation is the total loss of hair follicle and surrounding structures. Regeneration can occur in larger excisional wounds (larger than 1 cm in mice), and takes on embryonic-like regeneration.
However, now a newer, less invasive form of follicular regeneration is being studied.
As one can imagine, the creation of a successful regeneration process would be fantastic news for the millions of men and women suffering from hair thinning and loss.
What Does the Research Have to Say About Hair Follicle Neogenesis?
As mentioned previously, studies have been performed on follicular neogenesis since the 1940s.
This research focused largely on wound-induced neogenesis, a phenomenon first observed in 1941 when hair growth was observed in the untreated wounds of rats.
After that first discovery, results were then repeated in a 1954 study, performed by Breedis. This study utilized rabbits, where wounds on the back were left to heal (but not allowed to dry or contract).
As healing took place, functioning hair follicles and sebaceous glands developed in the the scars, according to Breedis’ research.
As interest in these studies resurfaced, current researchers hoped to achieve similar results as seen above, but without unnecessary wounding. So, how did new researchers approach such a task?
Through extraction of the cells responsible for hair follicle development and hair growth (dermal papilla).
In 2009, researchers collected Dermal Papilla Cells (DPC) from healthy, human donors. One of the major obstacles to DPC transplant is the ability to maintain the DPC’s hair-inductive properties.
Without said properties, hair growth would not occur and the transplant would be for naught.
Researchers, though, added the cells to a culture specifically made to preserve DPC’s hair-inductive properties.
To determine the effectiveness of the extraction and culture, the DPC were monitored for signs of expansion. After expansion was observed, the cells were transferred to an in vivo flap-graft model.
On average, the cultured DPCs resulted in five DP population doublings per passage. Once transplanted, these DPCs also resulted in hair formation. This was seen in the fact that the grafted DPs were visible in the newly-grown hairs.
Additionally, growth was seen again 11 months after the initial transplant when the hairs were plucked.
What Does This Mean for Hair Loss Sufferers?
No matter the underlying cause of your hair loss, it typically occurs when the hair stem cells fail to activate during hair cycling.
This can occur as a direct result of hair follicle miniaturization (as seen in individuals with male-pattern baldness), due to fungal overgrowth (as seen in those with dandruff), or even just as a part of aging (both premature and otherwise).
Whatever the cause, however, the end result is the same: thinning and loss of once healthy, strong hair.
For hair loss sufferers, though, the new research surrounding hair follicle regeneration offers new hope. Currently, not all forms of hair loss are reversible.
What these new studies show, however, is that regeneration of even completely damaged hair follicles may be possible in the future, if the right techniques are followed.
Is Hair Follicle Neogenesis a Possible Future Treatment for Hair Loss?
While there’s plenty more about the process which still needs to be researched and studied, the current studies on the topic do offer promising results.
It seems as if research is still a long way away from live, human studies.
However, as research has already shown that human dermal papilla cells are responsive to the culture and grafting process, it isn’t a far jump to say that such future studies will only offer more positive results.
As the science behind hair loss and hair follicle regeneration are better understand, it may be possible in the future to treat all types of hair loss, even those currently believed to be irreversible.
As it stands currently, however, it’s important to stop hair loss in its tracks before it becomes too late. This can be done through a variety of natural hair loss treatment methods, from acupuncture to ylang ylang oil.
Then, take a look around the website. You’ll find dozens of articles on hair loss, as well as how you can naturally treat the underlying cause and get back to growing long, thick, healthy locks.
*This article was reviewed by Dr. Anil Simhadri