Current options for those looking to reverse hair-loss include things like medications that may slow hair loss and transplants from hair follicles elsewhere on the body. But neither have the often desired effect of restoring a thick and full volume of hair. Researchers have been optimizing techniques for culturing “hair follicle germs” in a dish for years.
There are 2 key types of cells that help hair follicles develop before we’re born -- epithelial cells that help us create skin, and mesenchymal cells that help us create a variety of connective tissues -- so researchers copied this strategy from the embryo into the lab and they got hair follicles to grow! Though, these techniques were never high yield enough to produce the amount of follicles needed to restore a full head of hair to its previous luxurious glory -- until now.
Recently, Japanese researchers made improvements to this protocol, and then designed a special, oxygen-permeable mini-chip to scale up the farming of follicles, growing up to ~5000 at once. The “chip” isn’t like a computer chip -- it’s a tiny polymer structure with little wells in it. They grow the follicles, add a collagen and mesh layer for easy handling, and transplant right to the head where hopefully, it takes hold and grows like normal hair.