Biotech Researchers Cultivate New Hope for Treating Hair Loss

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hairAmericans often turn to laser hair removal, which takes only about 30 minutes, for their legs, arms, and back — but it’s keeping hair that is more of a challenge. By the age of 50, approximately 85% of men have significantly thinning hair. However, men aren’t the only ones who suffer from hair loss.

Angela Christiano is a researcher at Columbia University, and she has a condition known as alopecia areata, which leads to sudden and substantial hair loss.

Like countless other patients who suffer from this condition, she’s not satisfied with the treatments currently on the market.

In an aptly named project titled “Rapunzel,” Christiano is attempting to grow a full head of human hair in a lab using stem cells.

Christiano’s work reflects a thriving interest in the biotech community to treat hair loss as a medical condition, rather than a cosmetic one.

“Hair is hot right now,” said Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. “But it’s hard to grow hair.”

Christiano’s approach would be radical if it succeeds. The only two treatments currently on the market at the moment are both over 20 years old, and many are crying out for an update.

However, that’s not to say that traditional methods don’t work for some people.

For instance, Nicola Hanratty, a woman in the UK, has discovered an unlikely alternative that has helped her.

With her hairline receding completely at 19, Hanratty sought out any form of treatment that could help.

Strangely enough, her saving grace came to her in the form of hair pieces glued on by a medical adhesive.

“A lot of people define a woman’s beauty by her hair, so it was devastating to see mine disappearing,” Hanratty said.

Unlike wigs or some extensions, the process Hanratty went through allows her to wash, blow-dry, and style her hair as she normally would. Aside from having her hair pieces removed and re-applied one a month to avoid bacterial growth, Hanratty reported being happy with the outcome.

“Friends and family were full of compliments, and I posed for photos for the first time in years,” she said.

Christiano, though, is attempting to create a treatment that will allow hair to grow back naturally. So far, she’s had promising results.

“Rat hair, that is — we can grow rat hair like it’s no tomorrow,” Christiano said. “But we think we can do it with human hair, too.”

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