The Daily Mail
, one of the feistier UK tabloid papers, recently blasted this headline across its health pages:
Would that it were true. According to the Huffington Post, 80 million Americans “suffer from hair loss.” For Canada, then, about 8 million people are hiding hairless heads under their hockey toques. (Full disclosure: I am one of them.)
The article is based on research conducted at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and published in Nature. In a nutshell, Dr. Xiaowei "George" Xu, converted human skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells to produce large quantities of epithelial stem cells, which are normally found in hair follicles. When transferred to mice, the cells created “recognizable” shafts of hair.
How recognizable is debatable. But still, this represents an advance.
However, Dr. Xu urged caution: “We have solved one major problem, the epithelial component of the hair follicle. We need to figure out a way to also make new dermal papillae cells, and no one has figured that part out yet.”
Dr. Jeff Biernaskie (pictured at right) of the University of Calgary agrees. Any cure for baldness, he says, would have to incorporate re-invigorating dermal cell function.