3D Printing Used to Grow Human Hair Follicles

02 July 2019

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Researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center have developed a 3D printing technique to grow new hair follicles. The development offers new possibilities to treat hair loss and baldness.

The team, led by Angela Christiano, PhD, was able to successfully grow human hair follicles in a dish and on mice with the use of stem cells and 3D printed plastic moulds. The moulds include tiny spokes approximately half a millimetre wide through which the hair follicles grow and are designed to recreate the hair follicles' environment.

3D printers have up until now been unable to manage the intricate details of the moulds spokes but thanks to recent advances within 3D printing, these necessary extensions were able to be created.

Erbil Abaci, PhD, first author of this study, said: “Previous fabrication techniques have been unable to create such thin projections, so this work was greatly facilitated by innovations in 3D printing technology.”

The team then created a human skin structure to grow around the moulds and implanted hair follicles donated by volunteers, as well as keratin producing stem cells, into the mould extensions. These were then treated with growth factors, such as JAK inhibitors to stimulate hair growth. Within 3 weeks, the follicles started producing hair.

Although more work needs to be done, researchers hope the development could provide an unlimited supply of hair follicles for patients requiring hair replacement surgery.

“What we’ve shown is that we can basically create a hair farm: a grid of hairs that are patterned correctly and engineered so they can be transplanted back into that same patient’s scalp,” Angela Christiano said. “That expands the availability of hair restoration to all patients – including the 30 million women in the United States who experience hair thinning and young men whose hairlines are still receding. Hair restoration surgery would no longer be limited by the number of donor hairs.”