A new treatment for hair loss? Sign me up.

For those of us who consider such things every time we look into the mirror, you may have heard that there is a new school of thought about hair loss treatment known as hair regenerative medicine. It approaches the problem not by transplanting hair follicles from other parts of the body into the scalp — de rigueur for current state-of-the-art procedures, despite how noticeable the results can be afterward — but by using cellular aggregates known as hair follicle germs (HFG) to regenerate the existing scalp-based hair follicles that have stopped working.

One challenge to this approach lies in the preparation of HFGs on a large scale. But researchers at Yokohama National University (YNU), bless their hearts, have developed a new method for mass preparation. As recently reported in the journal Biomaterials, they have successfully prepared up to 5,000 HFGs simultaneously — and created new hair growth with them after transplantation into mice.

The key, according to YNU professor Junji Fukuda, a corresponding author of the study, was the choice of substrate materials. Oxygen-permeable silicone was the answer; the researchers used it to create a custom-designed array plate into which they seeded a mixture of skin cells and stem cells — an "HFG chip." Over a three-day culture period, the cells separated from one another to create "self-sorted" HFGs (ssHFGs). These were then transferred to a mouse, which subsequently demonstrated a typical murine cycle generation of black hair at both back and scalp transplantation sites.

"This simple method is very robust and promising," Fukuda says. "We hope that this technique will improve human hair regenerative therapy to treat hair loss such as androgenic alopecia."

Now, granted, the mouse's results are not exactly what I'd be looking for. But I daresay it's a step in the right direction.