Scientists are always looking for ways to improve on methods currently being used in cosmetic procedures. This is very obvious when we look at how far hair transplant methods have come just from the 1990s until today. In the past hair transplants did not look realistic and it was obvious when a person had work done. However, today’s techniques are much more sophisticated and produce a natural, realistic look to the hair. Today’s hair transplant procedures have come a long way.
Today, more advances are being made in the field of hair transplantation especially since scientists have new and improved molecular biology techniques that can be used to study hair follicles and what happens in the hair cycle.
Much of this work focuses on the molecules involved in the hair follicle cycle. In fact, researchers at Columbia University have found molecules that help to trigger the activity of hair follicles that are in a state of dormancy. Knowing the pathway that is involved in keeping hair follicles dormant is useful as is knowledge of how to activate the growth of hair. This could lead scientists to develop new medications or creams that can help to stimulate the growth of dormant hair.
Scientists have even been able to grow hair in Petri dishes in the laboratory. This could really facilitate hair transplant surgery in the future for people who at the moment may not have enough hair left on their head to use for grafts.
Growing hair in the lab for transplants
One can imagine that in the future a few hairs can be used to grow more hair in a dish. This could then be transplanted into the regions where a person is missing hair. Of course much of the research is still in its infancy stage and more work and investigations have to be completed before many of these findings can be applied to hair transplant surgeries and other hair loss treatments.
Even 3-D printing technology has been investigated as a way to help hairs to grow artificially in the laboratory. Such 3-D printers can make a mold into which the base of hair follicles can be placed and nutrients and growth factors can be added.
In some cases scientists have been able to produce hair using such 3-D printed molds, which means that in the future this could greatly aid hair transplant surgery for people who do not have enough donor hair left for transplanting.
Blocking enzymes and hair growth
Researchers have also discovered that hair follicles can be stimulated to grow if certain types of enzymes are blocked. These enzymes are known as Janus kinase (JAK) enzymes and the use of so called JAK inhibitors work to stop the activity of these molecules and as a result, hair can grow.
This could, in the future, lead scientists to develop medications to help stimulate the growth of hair follicles. The use of such inhibitors is being tested in clinical trials involving people who have particular types of alopecia, namely alopecia areata, which is a type of hair loss causes by immune system problems. The future looks promising for further advancements in hair transplant surgery.