Researchers, led by Angela Christiano, Associate Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Columbia University, have succeeded in generating new hair follicles, that could lead to a new way to treat hair loss.

The study published Oct. 21 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America is titled “Microenvironmental reprogramming by three-dimensional cultures enables dermal papilla cells to induce de novo human hair follicle growth.” In the paper, researchers Claire A. Higgins, James C. Chen, Jane E. Cerise, Colin A. B. Jahoda and Christiano detail their experiments that led to their discovery. The new technique for generating new hair follicles involves harvesting hair follicles from human donors, called dermal papillae, and cloning them before testing if these cells do, indeed, work to grow new human hair on mice. Five out of seven cases saw a positive result, and, according to Fox News, researchers could be only a few steps away from human trials.

“Several obstacles still remain. Angling, positioning, hair cycle, hair color, but the basics – the first step – is actually showing that it can be done,” Christiano says of the study.

The ability to generate new hair follicles to fight hair loss could revolutionize common treatments of transplantation.

“This approach has the potential to transform the medical treatment of hair loss. Current hair-loss medications tend to slow the loss of hair follicles or potentially stimulate the growth of existing hairs, but they do not create new hair follicles. Neither do conventional hair transplants, which relocate a set number of hairs from the back of the scalp to the front. Our method, in contrast, has the potential to actually grow new follicles using a patient’s own cells. This could greatly expand the utility of hair restoration surgery to women and to younger patients – now it is largely restricted to the treatment of male-pattern baldness in patients with stable disease,” Christiano said.

And the ability to grow hair in a lab will reportedly help researchers in their quest to develop drugs to treat hair loss.

“We’d like to think of this as an advancement in using regenerative medicine – or using the body’s own cells to restore their hair. Is that a cure for baldness? Technically, I guess it is,” Christiano told Fox News.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong